Greiss not thinking about Niittymaki's return


Greiss not thinking about Niittymaki's return

SAN JOSE Thomas Greiss preparation started all the way back in April.

It was then that the Sharks had a pretty good idea that the goaltender would be a big part of their organization for the 2011-12 season. Prospect Alex Stalock would be recovering from a serious severed nerve injury in his left leg into 2012, while Antero Niittymaki had been battling injury problems even before his hip surgery in September.

When Antti Niemi was unavailable for the first week of the regular season, Greiss took center stage. He won the home opener and started the first three games of the season, and since Niemi returned, has provided very steady goaltending as a backup and in relief.

His numbers are excellent a 2.15 goals against average and .919 save percentage are listed beside his 3-3-0 record, which in itself should be better. The Sharks have scored just six goals in his four starts since that 6-3 opening night win, including getting shutout twice.

The numbers are pretty good, but I would like to have won a couple more games, said a modest Greiss on Wednesday. Ive felt good in practice, had a couple good games, and a couple alright games.

Now that Niemi has returned and is healthy, Greiss has to adjust to being the backup again. He beat the New York Islanders on Oct. 29, came on in relief of Niemi on Nov. 3 against Pittsburgh to help the team come from behind and win, and took the 3-0 loss to Phoenix on Saturday.

McLellan specifically wanted him to get back in against the Coyotes, as the team had a four-day break that ends with Thursdays game against the Red Wings.

I think hes like any goaltender he plays better when he gets to play more, said McLellan. Off the bat, when he knew he was playing every night, he was very sharp. Now, hes got to adjust his game a little bit and remain sharp in practices so when he does get the call, whenever it might be, hes at the top of his game.

At some point this season, the Sharks front office will have a decision to make. Antero Nittymaki, although hes not skating with the team yet, has been seen on the ice in full gear and pads. Hes not moving around a whole lot, but its a reminder that the Sharks still have a pretty good veteran netminder on their roster.

Greiss, who comes off as a pretty laid-back guy by nature, insists hes not thinking about that yet.

Well just see what happens. I dont really worry about it right now, he said. Well see what happens then. Well take it day-by-day and see how it turns out.

McLellan will also wait and cross that bridge when it comes.

Niitty is down the road. We havent even started to talk about weeks or months or anything like that, he said. We just know that hes down the road. Have I given any thought to it? No, no thought at all.

Ahead of trade deadline, Sharks must decide on top line

Ahead of trade deadline, Sharks must decide on top line

SAN JOSE – Less than 48 hours before the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday at noon, the Sharks’ brain trust has at least one important decision to make.

Are they comfortable rotating left wingers in and out of the Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski line, or should an upgrade be attempted via the trade market? There are a number of players said to be available that could provide the team with some forward depth and scoring punch ahead of the playoffs.

Seven different wingers have played on that so-called top line, none of them lasting more than one continuous stint there than Patrick Marleau from Nov. 21 – Jan. 3. 

In total, seven different players have started a game on that line, including Marleau (25 games), Tomas Hertl (13 games), Kevin Labanc (6 games), Mikkel Boedker (5 games), Timo Meier (4 games), Joel Ward (4 games) and Melker Karlsson (4 games). Injuries have played a role, of course, but it seems as if coach Pete DeBoer has been looking for someone to seize that position. 

Pavelski, though, didn’t seem overly worried about the ongoing alternation.

“We’ve had a few different players there, and I don’t think it’s a concern,” said the captain. “You’re always looking for chemistry and something set in stone if you can get it, but throughout a game, things change.”

DeBoer laid out what he’s looking for in a player to skate alongside Thornton and Pavelski, as well as the kind of player that wouldn’t fit in that role.

“You have to play [at Pavelski and Thornton’s] level and their work ethic,” said the coach. “They want the puck. They want to hunt the puck and want someone to get in there and retrieve pucks so that they can have possession. 

“I can tell you a guy who doesn’t fit would be a guy who is strictly a shooter, or kind of lets other people do the work and just goes to holes. They need somebody that’s going to work at their level and hunt the puck, so that’s got to be part of it.”

Labanc is the latest player to hold down that spot, starting there for the last four games and remaining there for Monday’s practice at Sharks Ice. Just 21 years old, Labanc has contributed a respectable seven goals and 18 points in his first 46 NHL games. Still, he hasn’t scored a goal in his last 22 games, and has just one assist and four total shots in the last four games.

It’s debatable whether the still-smallish Labanc is ready for the rigors of an NHL schedule on a full-time basis, which would make it dangerous for the Sharks to go into the postseason with someone like him in such a key position. DeBoer, though, praised the rookie’s recent efforts.

“I thought he’s done a good job. He’s got some of those [aforementioned] attributes,” DeBoer said. "He’s an offensive guy, [and] he thinks on their level offensively.”

Other teams in direct competition with the Sharks for a Western Conference title are adding pieces, particularly up front. Anaheim acquired scoring winger Patrick Eaves from Dallas, the Blackhawks brought in Detroit forward Tomas Jurco, and Minnesota gave up a haul to Arizona for center Martin Hanzal.

If the Sharks don’t make a move, they will likely go the whole season without bringing in a single player from the outside other than their young prospects. That would be unique, especially for a team that has championship aspirations.

Pavelski seemed to insinuate that he expects at least one body to arrive.

“Whoever we get, hopefully they’ll fill a little depth or add a little something, and we’ll go from there,” he said.

But if not?

“It doesn’t change anything if nothing happens, that’s for sure. We’re going to keep trying to get better.”


Notes: Sharks' Donskoi nearing a return; Sorensen recalled

Notes: Sharks' Donskoi nearing a return; Sorensen recalled

SAN JOSE – Sharks forward Joonas Donskoi took part in his first full practice in more than a month on Monday, as he battles back from an upper body injury and the flu.

He will not play against the Maple Leafs at SAP Center on Tuesday, but appears to be close.

“He looks good. Getting closer,” Pete DeBoer said. “Obviously, it’s been awhile. It’s his first real practice and contact. So, it’s a good step.”

Donskoi, who is wearing a brace around his right shoulder, said he “feels great,” and joked that it’s been “boring” skating only with injured defenseman Dylan DeMelo, “even though he’s a really good guy.” He was supposed to accompany the team to its game in Vancouver on Saturday, but fell ill.

Donskoi skated on the third line right wing with center Tomas Hertl and left wing Melker Karlsson for Monday's practice. The Sharks’ top two lines remained the same, while the fourth line was Chris Tierney centering Joel Ward and rookie Marcus Sorensen. 

Micheal Haley did not skate for personal reasons, but is expected to be available for the Maple Leafs.

Donskoi has been out since aggravating an injury on Jan. 23 in Colorado, and has missed 16 of the last 19 games overall. In 44 games, he has six goals and nine points for 15 points and an even rating.

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The Sharks recalled Sorensen on Monday morning, while reassigning forward Barclay Goodrow to the Barracuda. Sorensen has one assist in two NHL games this season.

In 43 games with the Barracuda, the 24-year-old winger has 34 points (17g, 17a).

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The Sharks confirmed to CSN that their third round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft belongs to the New Jersey Devils, as compensation for DeBoer. Originally, it was thought that the Devils would not seek compensation for the coach, who was still under contract despite getting fired by New Jersey on Dec. 26, 2014. He was named as Sharks coach five months later.

San Jose still has its first round pick, a fourth, fifth, two sixths and three sevenths in the upcoming draft to be held in late June in Chicago. Its second round pick was dealt to Toronto last season as part of the deal for defenseman Roman Polak.