Sharks goalie Antti Niemi almost got the night off on Saturday. Almost.
There was talk of, do we play him tonight, or not? Todd McLellan said after the game.
Niemi played, and it was his best game since returning from the injury that forced him to miss the first three regular season games. The 28-year-old stopped 37 shots, many of them difficult, in holding off of the Boston Bruins and securing a 4-2 Sharks victory.
This time last year, Niemi was splitting duty with backupAntero Niittymaki. It wasnt until the second half of the year that Niemi emerged as the bona fide starter. He helped lead the Sharks to another Pacific Division title, making an extraordinary 34 consecutive starts in the process.
Thomas Greiss is the backup now, with Niittymaki on the shelf for a couple more months. Greiss was decent in the first three games, even though the Sharks lost two of them, and hes bound to get some more action in the coming weeks.
But, McLellan wants to make sure Niemi hits his groove early this season, and doesnt expect to take him out of the net very often.
We did that at the beginning of last year when we alternated days, but we dont have much interest in that right now, he said. Hes got to establish himself now that hes healthy as our number one guy.