Niemi out, Greiss to start Sharks opener

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Niemi out, Greiss to start Sharks opener

SAN JOSE Thomas Greiss will start in net on Saturday when the Sharks host the Phoenix Coyotes in San Jose's opening game of the 2011-12 season.

Head coach Todd McLellan revealed after Fridays practice at Sharks Ice that Antti Niemi is still not healthy enough to play, as predicted here yesterday. Niemi underwent surgery to remove a cyst from his leg just before the beginning of training camp.

Greiss, who spent last season in Sweden after four seasons in the Sharks organization, had a strong preseason posting a 4-1-0 record with a 1.71 goals-against average and .928 save percentage.

Hes looked good this week, said McLellan. We signed him and brought him back for a reason, and we believe he can do it. Just like all the other players, he gets his opportunity.

Griess was asked before McLellan's announcement how excited he would be if he were to start the first game at HP Pavilion.

It would be great. It would be the first home opener for me, so it would be fun.

The 25-year-old German native admitted that spending last season in Sweden wasnt too enjoyable, and hes glad to be back in the NHL. Greiss' goal was securing a roster spot with Antero Niittymaki out for the first half of the season with a hip injury.

Starting on opening night is just icing on the cake.

Ill be happy with whatever ice time I get, will try and do my best and prove myself, he said.

Griess was asked how hes a different goaltender now as compared to before he went abroad, and replied that hes calmer and more mature. McLellan agrees.

I think he feels he belongs here and expects to be here. His teammates are more comfortable with him. Hes been around long enough now that they know him and what to expect from him in certain situations.

Its another life form. Last year, through circumstances, it wasnt a pleasant season for him. Hes back in the NHL and starting on opening night. Thats a great opportunity and another life form.

Now, just because Griess was third on the depth chart behind Niemi and Niittymaki before the latters injury, doesnt mean hes going to relegated to the bench once Niemi is healthy. The last thing McLellan wants to do is play any one of his goaltenders too much at the start of the season, despite how good Niemi was in the second half of last season when he started 34 straight games.

In other words, expect to see Greiss much more than just on opening night.

Especially in the first half of the season, there will be more of a balance, said McLellan. Then, as the second half comes around, well make decisions and move forward from there.

Based on where Niittymaki is injury-wise, its probably going to put Nemo and Greisser in a situation where they are going to have to be the go-to guys. Hell get his opportunity to play.

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

CHICAGO – After nabbing a center in the first round on Friday, the Sharks added four more forwards and one defenseman to conclude the second day of the annual NHL Entry Draft on Saturday, held this year at United Center.

The Sharks weren’t explicitly trying to restock their forward cabinet, according to general manager Doug Wilson and scouting director Tim Burke, although the club did make two separate moves in surrendering some later round picks to move up in the fourth round (to take center Scott Reedy) and sixth round (to take left wing Sasha Chmelevski).

First, though, it was defenseman Mario Ferraro in the second round at 49th overall. The offensive defenseman was a player that the Sharks targeted, using the pick they acquired from New Jersey last Friday as part of the trade for Mirco Mueller.

“He’s got a lot of speed, offensive guy, exciting,” Burke said. “Puck-moving type of guy.”

Wilson said: “We’re very pleased with the d-man. He’s a very dynamic, athletic guy, great skater. He was a guy that we moved up a little bit aggressively to get because that round, you could see people going after who they wanted. He is a guy that we identified.”

After moving up from the fifth round to the fourth round last Friday, again because of the Mueller trade, the Sharks jumped up 21 more spots in the fourth round by obtaining the Rangers pick at 102nd overall for the 123rd and 174th selections.

Center Scott Reedy is a player that Burke has high hopes for, projecting the Minnesota native as a “second line right winger [with] high-end potential.” Burke pointed out that Reedy, who is friends with first round pick Josh Norris, occasionally played on the same line with Norris for each of the last two seasons with the U.S. Under-18 team.

“He’s a big, strong forward that can play both positions (center and right wing),” Burke said.

Right wing Jacob McGrew, an Orange, CA native, went to the Sharks in the fifth round despite missing all of his first season in junior with a lower body injury suffered in training camp with Spokane (WHL).

“We knew about him before he went up there,” Burke said. “He’s a California kid. … If he was healthy he probably would have gone earlier.”

The Sharks again moved up to snag Huntington Beach native and center Chmelevski at 185 overall, and made their sixth and final pick in the 212th position by taking left wing Ivan Chekhovich in the seventh round. Both players look to have some offensive skill, based on their numbers and Youtube highlights.

Burke was surprised that both players were around so late.

“I thought they had pretty good years and they kind of slipped in the draft,” he said. “We weighed that versus some other more project-type guys, and we thought they had more offense and finish to their game. They just kept sliding, so we took a chance on them.”

Wilson said: “We moved up for the guys we wanted, and then there were some skilled guys at the end that we were surprised were still there. … We’ll go back and take a look how it all went, but we feel, I think, really good about where we ended up with this.”

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

CHICAGO – Ilya Kovalchuk is still reportedly mulling over a return to the NHL, four years after he surprisingly walked away from a monstrous contract with the New Jersey Devils to play in the KHL.

The Sharks have been linked to Kovalchuk, in large part because of Pete DeBoer, who was Kovalchuk’s most recent head coach. In 2011-12, Kovalchuk was a dangerous scoring winger under DeBoer, helping the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final.

It was apparently a good working relationship between the player and the coach for the two seasons they were together, DeBoer said on Friday at the NHL Entry Draft at United Center.

“I loved Kovy in New Jersey,” DeBoer said. “We went to a Stanley Cup Final together. He was a huge piece for us there. I really enjoyed coaching him. I haven’t seen him in four or five years now. I’m sure there’s still a lot of game left there.”

DeBoer said he’s had no contact with the 34-year-old Kovalchuk, who would have to be traded by New Jersey before signing a new contract with any other NHL club. Still, it seems like the Sharks’ coach might welcome a reunion with Kovalchuk, who posted 78 points in 60 games with SKA Saint Petersburg last season, and has 816 points (417g, 399a) in 816 career NHL games with Atlanta and New Jersey.

“I had a really good relationship with him. I had a lot of respect for him as a player and a person,” DeBoer said.

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DeBoer seemed as uncertain as everyone else as to whether Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will return to the Sharks or move on to other clubs as free agents.

But, naturally, it’s on his mind.

“You think about it all the time,” DeBoer said. “They’re obviously important pieces in the history of the franchise, and in our group. I also understand the business side of this, and there’s always tough decisions to make. The way I approach these type of things is I’m going to go to Canada and relax, and Doug [Wilson] is going to make those decisions. I’m sure we’ll have a good group come training camp.”

“We’ve got a really good core group of guys and some tough decisions that have to be made. The one thing Doug and his group has shown over the years is their ability to stay competitive, to find a way even after making tough decisions. I have all the faith in the world in that, and I’m excited about training camp.”

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The Sharks lost David Schlemko in the expansion draft earlier in the week. Vegas then flipped him to the Canadiens for a fifth round pick in 2019.

“I think for David, it’s a great opportunity for him, especially going to Montreal,” DeBoer said. “For us, it’s an opportunity for a young guy to jump in. The one thing we have in the organization is some depth. There’s a lot of guys knocking on the door, and guys hungry to grab that job.”