Niemi out, Greiss to start Sharks opener

Niemi out, Greiss to start Sharks opener
October 7, 2011, 7:45 pm
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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.