Schneider praises Sharks' Niemi

Schneider praises Sharks' Niemi
March 5, 2013, 1:30 pm
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Antti Niemi is third in the NHL in goals-against average (1.83) and fourth in save percentage (.934). (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Programming note: Sharks-Canucks coverage gets underway today at 6:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live only Comcast SportsNet California.

VANCOUVER – It’s been a roller-coaster season for Canucks goalie Cory Schneider, who was supposed to be firmly entrenched as Vancouver's starting goaltender by now.

Instead, he and Roberto Luongo have each played 11 games, and Luongo’s numbers (2.19 goals-against average, .912 save percentage) are better than Schneider’s (2.65 GAA, .910 SP).

Conversely, goaltending has been anything but a question mark for the San Jose Sharks. Antti Niemi is third in the NHL in goals-against average (1.83) and fourth in save percentage (.934), and he was named as the team's January/February Player of the Month on Tuesday. Niemi will oppose Schneider on Tuesday night in Vancouver.

Schneider glanced at the stats on Tuesday morning, and was impressed.

“Niemi back there, I caught his numbers today and it’s Vezina-caliber numbers he’s putting up, quietly, that no one’s really paying attention to,” he said. “They’re not giving up a lot of goals, and just like the last few games, we’ve got to work hard in front of the net to get those chances.”

Niemi will be making his ninth straight start, while Schneider is coming off of a win over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, allowing two goals on 30 shots. Luongo took the loss in Calgary on Sunday.

Schneider allowed all four Sharks goals on Jan. 27, when the Sharks beat Vancouver, 4-1. He’s not focused on the Sharks’ recent offensive struggles.

“We saw them early in the year when everything was going in the net. I think that’s how we view them as an extremely dangerous offensive team, which I think they are,” Schneider said. “We can’t look at the past few games and say they haven’t scored that many goals. I think we have to look at the guys on the ice and see these guys are all dangerous players.”

Chris Higgins said: “These guys have been proven goal-scorers for years and years now, and some guys that have played well against us in the past. We know we have to stay tight defensively and they may be struggling to score a little bit, but it’s a team that you don’t want them to break out of it against you.”