Niemi still 'working way into season'

November 6, 2011, 11:25 pm
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SAN JOSE The Sharks practiced on Sunday morning at HP Pavilion, so it was a good opportunity to follow up with Todd McLellan on a few topics that came up after the teams 4-3 overtime loss to Nashville on Saturday night.

I tweeted out shortly after the game that it seemed like McLellan was much more content following the loss to Nashville than he was the win over Pittsburgh on Thursday night. In that game, the Sharks erased a two-goal third period deficit to rally and defeat one of the best clubs in the league.

Saturday night, of course, was the opposite. San Jose blew a 3-1 lead in the third period and lost for just the second time in eight games (6-1-1).

McLellan seemed to agree with my perception that he was more annoyed on Thursday than he was last night. He was much more pleased with the teams performance as a whole against the Predators, despite the loss.

Here is his somewhat long, yet thoughtful response to the suggestion that he's more concerned with how the team is playing right now than the actual results:

Its about wins and losses, and all 30 of us talk about it at the end of the day that weve got to win these games. The Pittsburgh game was very poor in my opinion and came back-to-back, because we werent very good in the Rangers game (a 5-2 loss on Monday). We started to play late in the Pittsburgh game and we managed to win.

Last night, I thought we had a much better game, we just didnt win. There was about a 10-minute lull in the third period where we werent our best. But, sometimes we dont give enough credit to the other team. They are allowed to play hard and smart and do things well on the ice, and Nashville did that. They were better for that 10 and 12 minutes, and we didnt stop them.

So, to answer your question, we always look at the whole and then the results. The whole was better than it was two nights earlier.

The second issue is the goaltender. Antti Niemi allowed at least one, and maybe two, soft goals on the second and third tallies by the Predators.

His numbers are not good. Niemi has a 4-2-1 record, but his 3.09 goals-against average and .892 save percentage are nothing to write home about.

McLellan believes his starting goaltender is still a bit of a work in progress after missing all of training camp and the preseason.

If I was going to describe Nemo, he plays his best when hes a workhorse and ridden all the time, said McLellan. Hes just getting to that now. His injury, his lack of a work-full training camp, his lack of an exhibition season hasnt been helpful for him. But, that doesnt mean we dont believe in what he can and will do.

Niemi started 34 straight games for the Sharks in the second half of last season, and was outstanding. It seems as though McLellan will stick with him for now, with the hope that he improves with more action.

Hes still working his way into the season. So, we know hes going to get better, he said.

The Sharks host the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.