Niemi still enjoying heavy workload

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Niemi still enjoying heavy workload

ANAHEIM There isnt any uncertainty that Sharks goalie Antti Niemi likes getting the bulk of the work in net. That was reaffirmed after Tuesdays practice in Anaheim, when Niemi was asked how many of the next 12 games in 21 days hed like to start.

Close to 12, Niemi said.

Hes already gotten the call for the last dozen games, and 16 of the previous 17. It sounds as if hell be making consecutive start number 13 on Wednesday when San Jose goes for its first win of the season in four tries against last place Anaheim.

Niemi made 27 saves on Monday in a 3-2 win over Vancouver, improving to 16-7-4 with a solid 2.34 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. A four-day break for the Sharks before that game allowed him to catch his breath.

I know Nemo played last night, but all three goalies are fresh, Todd McLellan said. As we get through to the All-Star break, well have to access the other goaltenders and well have a plan for that. Right now, with back-to-back games coming up, that could be our first opportunity, but nothings written in stone.

That sure sounds like a hint that either Thomas Greiss or Antero Niittymaki will get the call against Columbus on Thursday at HP Pavilion. Conventional wisdom would say that Greiss will be the next goalie to start that isnt named Antti Niemi, as hes continued to dress as the backup even after Niittymaki was medically cleared and rejoined the team in mid-December.

The game against Columbus would make perfect sense, as the Blue Jackets have been dead last in the NHL for virtually the entire season, and it will be the end of a three-games-in four-nights stretch for the Sharks.

Greiss hasnt played in exactly one month a 5-3 loss to Florida on December 3.

He admits that hes thought the busy schedule may allow him to get back into the crease, so is trying to stay as sharp as possible in practice.

I just go from game to game, try to practice and do my best, and when I get in Ill be ready, he said.

Since Niemi is a goalie that likes to play as much as possible, and seems to play his best hockey when the workload is heavy, it makes it a little more complicated for McLellan to pick his spots to pull him from the lineup.

It does, and we have to keep that in mind, said the coach. Once we get deeper into this logjam of games it will make it a little bit easier. But right now, hes fresh, and looking at you like hey, put me in, Im ready. Hes played fairly well, so there are a lot of things that are working in his favor right now.

Odds and ends: Logan Couture showed no ill effects from blocking a shot with his right knee in Monday night's game, skating the entire practice on Tuesday. Jim Vandermeer sure appears to be healthy, and didnt have any sort of protection on his injured hand in Tuesday's practice. In order for him to come off of injured reserve, though, the Sharks would have to clear a roster spot, and are probably in no rush to do so. Colin White is not with the team, still suffering from a lower body injury.

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

WHERE THEY STAND

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

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***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).

KEEP AN EYE ON...

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.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
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

Jets
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

INJURIES

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.

QUOTEABLE

“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