Sharks forced to test youth in net

September 23, 2011, 12:56 am
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Imagine your panic if you replaced the name goaltender Antero Niittymaki with goaltender Evgeni Nabokov two years ago. Youd be biting the heads off whippets.

Or you wouldnt be a Sharks fan. There is also that possibility.

But Niittymakis injury, which is expected to take him out until the new year or close to it, merely means that the Sharks are going to have to finally see what they have in Thomas Greiss. And if they dont like the answers they get there, maybe Alex Stalock.

Either way, losing Niittymaki and not being sure that starting goalie Antti Niemi will be ready for the opening bell puts San Jose and head coach Todd McLellan in their first real pickle of the new season, and it also solves a problem at the same time.

Namely, how to prioritize their young goalies.

Greiss was the next hot thing until he wasnt, and then it was Stalock, and then it was Harri Sateri. Only none of them really fit the bill for Doug Wilson, and we know that because the Sharks signed Niittymaki to a two-year deal and then Niemi to a four-year not exactly proof that they love the stable.

Now they have to make decisions, and use the overflow as bait for another wing, perhaps, or depth on defense. And they will have make them the old-fashioned way by seeing them against the best talent in the world.

If this sounds like proclaiming the glass half-full, it isnt. They could all bomb, for example, and learning you have no goalie depth is no more heartwarming than wondering how much you have.

But we saw how bad San Jose could be in net, and all through the roster for that matter, last winter. They needed three months to scare themselves into thinking they werent a bad team, so having depth problems in net isnt nearly the disaster in October that it would be in February.

I mean, there is that.

But it is a discovery McLellan would rather not have had to make, and the first reminder to the faithful that no matter how many people liked the Sharks offseason, the antes and blinds get higher now. Much much higher.