Sharks notebook: Niemi gets call vs. Red Wings

December 6, 2010, 7:36 pm
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Dec. 6, 2010SHARKS PAGE SHARKS VIDEOPREVIEW: SHARKS (12-9-4) vs. DETROIT (17-4-3)Ray Ratto

DETROIT -- An optional skate Monday (no Patrick Marleau, no Dany Heatley, no big deal), producing the following revelations:

- Antti Niemi will start his third consecutive game for the Sharks, based according to Todd McLellan, on his knowledge of the boards and glass at Joe Louis Arena and his greater experience against the Detroits as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. It might also be that he is being given his first extended chance to win the starting goaltender's job, despite better numbers and more consistent performances so far from Antero Niittymaki (who gave up five against the Wings six days ago in The House Of Aluminum Siding), but we'll see how it plays out tonight and whether he gets the call Wednesday in Philadelphia.

- Both Jason Demers and Niclas Wallin were pronounced available, but McLellan thought it unlikely that both would go into the lineup together against a team with Detroit's depth and speed. Demers, who cut his wrist against Columbus and hasn't played since, said he was as good to go as he's been all year, and called a possible start tonight "a good test to see where I'm at." Call this one a GTR - Game-Time Revelation.

- Barring a late change, Marleau and Torrey Mitchell will in fact change places. Mitchell will take the left flank of the Joe Thornton- Heatley line, and Marleau will start on the third line with Jamie McGinn and Joe Pavelski. The reasons: One, so that Mitchell can perhaps help create some defensive challenges that the Thornton-Heatley-Marleau line hasn't (McLellan called it "their offensive production versus their defensive liabilities, for lack of a better word"), and that Marleau as a right-handed shot can help unlock Pavelski's best passes.

- The Sharks currently sit 12th, a point behind Columbus, Nashville, Colorado and Anaheim, all tied for eighth. A win tonight could conceivably move them past all of them and into a seventh-place tie for seventh with St. Louis, although Nashville plays in Atlanta and Columbus hosts Dallas.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.