CHICAGO After facing one of the leagues best goalies this season in Brian Elliott on Saturday night, the Sharks will face another hot hand on Sunday when Ray Emery starts for the Blackhawks.
Emerys numbers arent quite as gaudy as Elliotts, who leads the NHL in both goals-against average (1.45) and save percentage (.947) after shutting out the Sharks last night, 1-0. The Blackhawks' backup sports a mediocre stat line of 2.80 and .898, but hes 5-1-2 playing behind a potent offense that is fourth in the league in scoring with 3.21 goals per game.
Sunday night will be his third start in the last four games, as starter Corey Crawford (12-7-2, 3.00 GAA, .896 SP) has struggled. Emery allowed just two goals in two wins on Dec. 3 at St. Louis and Dec. 8 at the Islanders, and came on in relief of Crawford on Dec. 5 vs. Phoenix, stopping all 11 shots he faced in 43 minutes before a shootout loss.
CSNChicago.coms Tracey Myers writes:
Emery has gained confidence as his season has progressed; and while No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford works on getting some kinks out of his game, the Blackhawks will ride Emerys confident streak with him.He just seems to progress in games, coach Joel Quenneville said. Hes excited, especially when games are on the line. Hes very solid, he finds pucks and his concentration level is in the right place. He moves well, seems big and looks comfortable and confident in the net.Emery wasnt thrilled with his game coming out of training camp. Numbers-wise, it seemed Alex Salak, against whom he was competing for the backup shot, had the better performances. But Emerys game has sharpened since seasons start, hes now 5-1-2 and is taking advantage of his opportunities.Im happy to get wins but at the same time I think that you can always get better, Emery said. As soon as you think youre doing well, get too comfortable something might happen. You just have to be ready.
As for the starter for San Jose, it was unconfirmed as of Sunday morning. However, with former Blackhawk Antti Niemis success against his old team over the last two years, including a 1-0 shutout at HP Pavilion on Nov. 23, its a good bet that the Sharks will start Niemi for the second game in a row despite the back-to-back situation.
In five career games against Chicago, the team he helped to a Stanley Cup championship in 2010, Niemi is 4-1 with a 2.21 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. In two games in Chicago, though, he's 1-1 with a 4.80 GAA and .851 SP.
San Jose visits Colorado on Tuesday, where Thomas Greiss made 37 saves in a 4-1 win on Nov. 20.