Is Antti Niemi overworked in net?


Is Antti Niemi overworked in net?

SAN JOSE Antti Niemi doesnt seem to mind all the playing time hes been getting lately.

The Sharks goaltender made his 12th start in the last 13 games against Tampa Bay on Wednesday night, stopping 22 shots in a 7-2 win. His steady play has allowed the Sharks to gain points in five straight games (3-0-2) as theyve made their way back to the top of the Pacific Division.

It becomes more routine, and you stay focused from game to game, with just one or two days between, he said on Tuesday. Then, you dont have to think about games too much.

But, how much work it too much work for Niemi?

RELATED: Antti Niemi 2011 game logs

The Sharks goaltender started 34 games down the stretch last season from Jan. 15 April 4, going 25-4-4 with a 2.05 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in the process. Clearly, he can thrive when getting the bulk of the time, as those numbers dictate.

But Todd McLellan admitted on Tuesday that Niemi may have been a bit tired on the Sharks run to the Western Conference Finals last spring, in which they had to survive a six-game series in the first round and a seven-game battle in the second before bowing out to Vancouver.

I know we overworked Antti last year down the stretch, said McLellan. I believe that he was tired. I dont believe hes anywhere near that right now. In fact, I think this is good for him. This is what he needs and this is when he excels.

Again, the numbers back up McLellans claim. In his last 16 starts, Niemi is 10-4-2 with a 2.05 goals-against average and .927 save percentage with one shutout.

RELATED: 2011 NHL stats leaders

That doesnt mean Niemi doesnt get tired sometimes, though. In fact, he was feeling it a bit when the Sharks recently started him in all three games of last weekends road trip, which included back-to-back games in St Louis and Chicago and ended in the high altitude of Colorado.

I think my body could feel it during that stretch where there were more games than before for awhile, especially the back-to-backs, he said. St. Louis, then Chicago, and then Colorado where the air is a little different. It took awhile to get back from the back-to-back games, so I could notice something, for sure.

The day off last Sunday, followed by two more days without games gave Niemi plenty of time to rest up, though. That down time is just as important as his playing time, he said.

I think the main thing is how we handle things on the ice and off the ice, because its such a long year. So, what do we do on our time off or days off? Just balancing everything is the key, he said.

McLellan plans on getting his other goaltenders involved more, whether thats Thomas Greiss, Antero Niittymaki or both, after the turn of the new year.

Looking at our schedule, the January-February-March portion of it, well need two and perhaps the three goaltenders that we have to get through that stint of road games, and playing 17 in March alone, he said.

Right now, Nemo is fine. Hes our guy and were going with him.

Niittymaki update: The Sharks will have a decision to make shortly when Antero Niittymakis two-week conditioning stint comes to an end this weekend. For now, expect them to carry three goaltenders along with current backup Thomas Greiss.

Doug Wilson addressed the situation before Wednesdays game.

Its a good problem to have, he said. Much like having eight defensemen, you can go from eight defensemen down to five pretty quickly, and you can go from three goalies down to one pretty quickly. Were pleased with Niittymakis progress and injured goalie prospect Alex Stalocks progress, too.

Niittymaki made his third start for Worcester last night in a 6-3 loss. In three games, he's 1-2 with a 3.38 goals-against average and .878 save percentage.

Sharks trade Tommy Wingels to Senators

Sharks trade Tommy Wingels to Senators

Tommy Wingels has been traded to the Ottawa Senators for a pair of depth forwards and a seventh round draft pick in 2017, the Sharks announced on Tuesday.

Buddy Robinson and Zack Stortini, both right wings, will be assigned to the AHL Barracuda.

Robinson, 25, has 12 points (7g, 5a) in 33 AHL games with Binghamton. In seven career NHL games with Ottawa, the six-foot-six, 230-pound New Jersey native has one goal and one assist. He is a pending restricted free agent.

Stortini, 31, has three points (2g, 1a) in 22 games for Binghamton this season. The six-foot-two, 220-pound Ontario native has appeared in 257 career NHL games with Edmonton and Nashville, posting 41 points (14g, 27a) and 718 penalty minutes. He is a pending unrestricted free agent.

The move clears the way for the Sharks to activate injured forward Tomas Hertl, who is day-to-day with a right knee injury that required surgery in mid-November.

According to a source, there is a very good chance Hertl returns to the Sharks on Thursday against the Oilers.

San Jose will retain 30 percent of Wingels’ $2.475 million salary, according to the Senators, which comes out to $742,500.

Wingels, 28, posted 122 points (51g, 71a) and 197 penalty minutes in 337 career games with San Jose over parts of seven seasons. He was originally drafted by the Sharks in the sixth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

He is the second player that has essentially been pushed off of the Sharks’ roster as they incorporate younger players like Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier into the fold. Matt Nieto was waived in early January, and claimed by the Avalanche on Jan. 5.

"Tommy has been a valuable member of our franchise for many years, a phenomenal teammate and a true role model on and off the ice for our organization and the NHL," general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement. "As a team evolves and younger players push for roster spots, unfortunately tough decisions have to be made. We wish Tommy and his wife, Molly, nothing but success in the future.

"We also want to welcome Buddy and Zach to our organization. They add size and depth to our reserve list and we look forward to having them in San Jose.”

NHL Gameday: Streaking Sharks roll into Winnipeg, can reclaim first place

NHL Gameday: Streaking Sharks roll into Winnipeg, can reclaim first place

Programming note – Sharks-Jets coverage starts today at 4:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California


Sharks: 30-16-2, 62 points, 2nd Pacific Division
Jets: 22-24-4, 48 points, 5th Central Division


***The Sharks won their fifth straight game on Monday in Colorado, 5-2, thanks to four goals from Patrick Marleau. San Jose is 7-2-0 overall in its last nine games, and can move back into first place in the Pacific Division ahead of idle Anaheim with a win tonight.

Winnipeg will also be playing the second of a back-to-back, after dropping a 3-2 decision to the Ducks at home on Monday. The Jets are 2-4-1 in their last seven, including a 5-2 loss to the Sharks at SAP Center on Jan. 16.

***Winnipeg should be getting impressive rookie Patrik Laine back for the game, according to local reports. He’s missed the last eight games with a concussion suffered on Jan. 7. The 18-year-old Calder Trophy candidate has 21 goals and 37 points in 42 games.

San Jose could be without Joonas Donskoi, after the winger was unable to finish the game against Colorado after taking a heavy hit from Andreas Martinsen in the first period.

***Brent Burns scored another goal last night, reaching 20 on the season. He’s the fastest defenseman to reach that mark since Kevin Hatcher in 1992-93. In his last 10 games, the Norris Trophy favorite has 15 points (5g, 10a).


Sharks: Patrick Marleau. It was a historic night on Monday for the Sharks’ all-time leading scorer, as he became the first NHL player in nearly 20 years to score four goals in a single period. He struck for three in a row to start the final frame, upping the San Jose lead to 4-1, and capped it off with a late breakaway conversion. His 16 goals suddenly puts him in a tie with Joe Pavelski for second on the team.

Jets: Mark Scheifele. The 23-year-old center is Winnipeg’s leading scorer with 46 points (21g, 25a), and he brings a five-game point streak into tonight’s game (2g, 5a). He had a late goal against San Jose on Jan. 16 (thanks to Martin Jones’ ill-advised decision to try and shoot the puck into an open net), as well as an assist on an early score by Josh Morrissey.


Melker Karlsson – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Kevin Labanc – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward
Timo Meier – Ryan Carpenter – Barclay Goodrow

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones
Aaron Dell

Nic Petan – Bryan Little – Blake Wheeler
Nikolaj Ehlers – Mark Scheifele – Patrik Laine
Shawn Matthias – Adam Lowry – Joel Armia
Brandon Tanev – Andrew Copp – Chris Thorburn

Josh Morrissey – Dustin Byfuglien
Toby Enstrom – Jacob Trouba
Mark Stuart – Paul Postma

Ondrej Pavalec
Connor Hellebuyck


Sharks: Joonas Donskoi (upper body) is questionable. Micheal Haley (lower body), Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist) and Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) are out.

Jets: Patrik Laine (concussion) and Drew Stafford (lower body) are day-to-day. Tyler Myers (lower body), Marko Dano (lower body), and Ben Chiarot (lower body) are out.


“For a while there we were up and down, winning some games, losing some games. Now we’re putting some wins together and separating ourselves from the teams behind us.” – Marc-Edouard Vlasic