Sharks

Plan B: what if Niemi's not ready?

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Plan B: what if Niemi's not ready?

Kevin Kurz
CSNCalifornia.com

It doesnt take a Scotty Bowman or Mike Keenan to tell you that putting in your third string goaltender to start the season isnt ideal.

Here's what we know: Sharks starter Antti Niemi reportedly could be out 12 weeks -- sidelining him for the season opener on Oct. 8. Backup Antero Niittymaki could be out until January, and top prospect Alex Stalock cant even suit up for practice until February of 2012, meaning the Sharks could face an early hurdle to getting off to the strong start they so desperately seek this season.

Is it time to worry? Yes and no.

First, Niemis cyst-removal recovery, while nothing to scoff at, is still is not all that serious. It's not a torn knee ligament, it's not a concussion. The season is a long one, and barring something unforeseen, the veteran netminder will be back on his skates when it matters most.

Entering his second season in San Jose, Niemi showed down the stretch last season he could handle a heavy workload. In case youve forgotten, Niemi started 34 consecutive games when Niittymaki was battling his nagging injury problems, and went 24-4-4 with a 2.05 goals-against average and .929 save percentage over that span.

However, its nearly impossible in the NHL to have a successful regular season without both your starter and backup contributing solid play between the pipes. GM Doug Wilson knows it, which is why he signed Niemi in the summer of 2010 to join the veteran Niittymaki.

Thomas Greiss, who would probably be considered the third stringer at this point, doesnt have much NHL experience. In fact, after playing in 19 games over the course of two seasons with the Sharks, he packed his bags for the Swedish Elite League last season and put up some pretty pedestrian numbers. If the Sharks really considered him a viable option for an NHL job, they probably would have kept him around.

Meanwhile, Stalock is still on the long road to recovery from his serious severed nerve injury that he sustained last February while playing for Worcester. Even though hes ahead of schedule, its unlikely Stalock has any impact on Sharks this season. Instead, the club would be wise to ease him back into the AHL lineup at some point this year with the goal of him being fully healthy for training camp 2012.

Could Wilson be in the market for an experienced NHL backup, like, say, Marty Turco? You would have to think hes exploring that option, since the Sharks want to avoid their up-and-down first half of the season that they suffered through last year.

Having said all that -- would you be comfortable with Niemi and Greiss as your goalie tandem for the first half of this season, or are you worried about the Sharks goalie depth? Let us know in your comments below.

Sharks start training camp with familiar face elsewhere: ‘It’s kind of strange’

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AP

Sharks start training camp with familiar face elsewhere: ‘It’s kind of strange’

SAN JOSE — There was something familiar missing in San Jose when the Sharks opened training camp.

For the first time since 1996, the Sharks took the ice for their first training camp practice without Patrick Marleau on the team as the franchise's career leader in games and scoring left as a free agent for Toronto this summer.

"I've spent a lot of years with him. It is kind of strange," said Joe Thornton, who came to San Jose in 2005. "It's his birthday today too. It's a little weird, but he's going to do great up in Toronto."

Marleau had been with San Jose since being picked second overall in 1997 but left the Sharks to sign an $18.75 million, three-year deal with the Maple Leafs in July.

Marleau has 508 goals and 574 assists for 1,082 points. He had 46 points in playing all 82 games last season as he rebounded from a disappointing 2015-16 season by scoring 27 goals, including the 500th of his career. He ranks first in San Jose in career goals, games and points.

Only six players in NHL history have played more games with one team than Marleau's 1,493 in San Jose. The Sharks haven't played a game without him on the ice since April 7, 2009.

"Obviously Patty has meant so much to this organization and this group," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Everyone in this room has pretty much played with him and Patty has done something to help them out. He'll be missed. ... Just by committee somebody will step in and fill that kind of hole. That's what we'll need."

The Sharks made no major additions this offseason so will need to replace Marleau's 27 goals by getting development from younger players like Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Danny O'Regan, as well as bounce-back seasons from veterans like Thornton, Mikkel Boedker and Joonas Donskoi.

Only Pavelski, Logan Couture and Brent Burns are back after scoring more than 12 goals last season.

"When I look back at last year we had key people either have down years or miss significant time with injuries or coming off injuries," coach Peter DeBoer said. "I think if we can stay healthy I think we've got a large group of guys that can really take a step this year and I expect a step out of them."

While the Sharks lost Marleau in free agency, they did manage to keep Thornton by giving him a one-year, $8 million contract despite dwindling production last season and offseason knee surgery.

He scored just seven goals — his fewest in an 82-game season since his rookie year in 1997-98 — and was a key part of a power-play unit that uncharacteristically struggled last season. But he still managed 43 assists, teaming with captain Joe Pavelski on San Jose's top line.

Thornton missed the final week of the regular season and the first two playoff games with a left knee injury before returning for the final four games of a first-round loss to Edmonton. Thornton then underwent surgery to repair his MCL and ACL after the season but was back skating in August and started ramping it up for training camp two weeks ago. Thornton believes the lower-body work he did in rehab this offseason will pay dividends on the ice.

"They feel real strong," he said of his legs. "I feel a lot of pop out there. They're probably as strong as they've ever been just because I had to rehab that knee so much."

Sharks Media Day highlights: Beards, smiles & cup checks

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Sharks Media Day highlights: Beards, smiles & cup checks

The boys were back together in San Jose on Thursday for Sharks Media Day, with plenty of smiles and moments of levity. Check out the highlights...

Hey Jumbo, you dropped something. 👖🤷‍♂️

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Martin Jones is pretty good at photobombs 📸💣

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🤳 Media Day #SJSharks

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New season. New commercials. 🕉🚌📺 #ComingSoon #SharksForLife

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