Sharks-Predators: What to watch for

November 5, 2011, 7:16 pm
Share This Post

SAN JOSE Antti Niemi will get his wish.

The Sharks goaltender, who said that he would be best suited to play again right away after getting pulled two minutes into the game against Pittsburgh on Thursday, will start in net against the Nashville Predators on Saturday night at HP Pavilion.

Todd McLellan said the decision was not difficult.

It was easy. Hes going to be our goaltender when it counts, said the coach. He hasnt had a lot of time throughout training camp, and he needs to play some games. So, its pretty simple.

Thomas Greiss was arguably the Sharks best player in the 4-3 come-from-behind win against the Penguins. McLellan was quick to point out that Greiss, whose 1.99 goals-against average and .928 save percentage are decidedly better than Niemis stats (2.96, .893) will get more looks down the road.

Thomas played extremely well, we all appreciate his effort and hell get many more opportunities to play this year. But, tonight its about Nemo getting his game back.

Every day Im shufflin: The Sharks third line was finally able to contribute on Thursday, getting a huge goal from Jamie McGinn with less than five minutes to play that tied the game at 3-3.

It was a big goal for the third line last game, to be rewarded and put the puck in the net, so hopefully we can continue that, said McGinn this morning. We got that monkey off our back kind of thing.

McGinn also has a new linemate, if you go by practice yesterday and the skate this morning. Marty Havlat has joined McGinn and Michal Handzus, as McLellan seeks a more balanced attack.

RELATED: Tinkering with third D pair continues

Marty and Zeus have a good relationship, and I think they understand each other, said McLellan. I think they could be a dynamic pair together as the year goes on.

Havlat and Handzus are no strangers, as the two played together on the same line in Chicago for most of the 2006-07 season.

Hes very smart with the puck and his positioning, and a good passer and playmaker, Havlat said of Handzus. He can get you the puck pretty quick. Hes great at both ends.

Avoiding the Big D: There could be another reason that McLellan wants to change his forward lines up, specifically splitting up Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

Actually, make that two reasons Predators defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.

Thornton has skated with Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski the last two days, while Marleau looks to be with Ryane Clowe and Torrey Mitchell.

They have Suter and Weber and will try and match up against one of our big centermen Im assuming Jumbo, explained McLellan. So, that will allow another big body in Patty to play against other pairs.

When you put Patty and Clowie together they are two big men. If they are playing well, theyre a load to handle down low.

As good as the top two lines were on the Sharks successful 5-1 road trip, McLellan sensed even they were getting a little too stale, as he put it.

We werent getting a lot from our third and fourth lines anyhow, and our other two lines for the most part carried the team on the road trip. But, they started to sputter at the end, too, he said.

Pavelski recovering: Joe Pavelski was back on the ice this morning after sitting out Fridays practice with a flu bug, that has been making its way through the team. Marelau and Dan Boyle have also had bouts with the illness.

Pavelski still leads the team with 13 points, but had a six-game scoring streak snapped against the Penguins.

RELATED: Pavelski latest flu victim

Its just something you have to deal with, said Pavelski, who said he wasnt feeling 100 percent during the win over the Penguins, before adding he has to be better than he was in that game.

Odds and ends: The Sharks and Predators met once this season, with San Jose skating to a 3-1 win in Nashville on Oct. 25. Pekka Rinne is expected to start in net for the Preds. Hes started every game so far, and is coming off of a shutout of Phoenix on Thursday. That day also marked his 29th birthday, and he signed a 49 million, seven-year deal with the team before the game. Not a bad day. Nashville is in the middle of a five-game road trip. They are 1-0-1 so far.