Couture: 'The skill will come through if we work hard'
Antti Niemi's 1.83 goals-against average and .934 save percentage are both good for fourth in the NHL. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SAN JOSE – Sharks goalie Antti Niemi has been arguably the team’s best player this season, winning his ninth game on Saturday against Nashville. His 1.83 goals-against average and .934 save percentage are both good for fourth in the NHL.
Niemi started his eighth straight game on Saturday against the Predators, making 18 saves in a 2-1 win.
Asked about his energy level following the game, Niemi said: “I think it’s good. It’s a couple days until we play, so it’s good. We’ll probably have a lot shorter skate tomorrow, and just recover from these games.”
In fact, Niemi didn’t skate at all on Sunday, but neither did anyone else. The coaching staff gathered everyone at the practice facility in the morning, but opted for an off ice team workout. They’ll return to the ice on Monday at 11 a.m.
McLellan isn’t worried about overworking his goaltender.
“I see Nemo’s energy level being fine. He gets a day today. We’ve said in the past he plays better when he’s playing a lot. I rely on Wayne [Thomas] and Corey [Schwab] for input when it comes to that.”
Niemi will likely make it nine in a row when the Sharks visit Vancouver on Tuesday. If you’re wondering when you’ll see Thomas Greiss, who hasn’t played since the team laid an egg in a 6-2 loss in Columbus on Feb. 11, it could be on Wednesday night in Calgary. Each of Greiss’ first three starts have come in back-to-back situations.
If that’s McLellan’s plan, though, he wasn’t letting on.
“They both get ready to play every night, and I like it that way,” said the coach.
The Sharks have five back-to-backs still left on the schedule, including three in March. Tuesday begins a stretch of 14 games in 26 days.
More on second line
As mentioned in last night’s final game recap, Sharks forwards Patrick Marleau, Tim Kennedy and Joe Pavelski was San Jose’s most dominant line. They combined for 14 of the team’s 39 shots, and Pavelski and Marleau were a combined 9-for-13 on faceoffs in the game.
McLellan expanded on his praise of that trio on Sunday.
“Two speedy guys that can go in and create turnovers and dig out pucks, and then Pavs’ smarts and conditioning. I thought they were a good line. I thought that was one of Pavs’ best games in awhile, and maybe the tempo around him helped, as well.”
Kennedy played 15:42, his second highest total this season and most in the last four games. He’s been used in just about every situation (except the penalty kill) since being recalled from Worcester on Feb. 12.
“He was quick and hungry,” McLellan said of Kennedy, who has two goals in eight games. “I thought when he came in initially, he really gave us a good boost. Like a lot of players he kind of settled in, and he just has to be reminded that he has to play this way. The reward for him was going up on that line. He was very effective, and we’d like to see that every night.”