McLellan: We made strides but we weren't at our best
Alex Stalock has a 1.31 goals-against average and .967 save percentage in limited action. (USATSI)
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CALGARY -- Another loss in Winnipeg on Sunday means more changes to the Sharks’ lineup for Tuesday's game against the Flames.
The most notable of those will be in net, as Alex Stalock will make his second start of the season and of his career. Stalock backstopped the Sharks to their most recent win on Oct. 27 in Ottawa with 38 saves on 40 shots, and since then, the team has lost five in a row (0-1-4).
Stalock came on in relief of Antti Niemi in a 4-2 loss to Vancouver last Thursday, stopping all 21 shots he saw. He has a 1.31 goals-against average and .967 save percentage in limited action, as Niemi has started 16 of the first 17 games.
“His last start was a very good one for us, and he came in in relief against Vancouver and played well,” Todd McLellan said. “[He] deserves the chance, and I’m sure he’ll be the difference.”
Stalock said: “I played recently, but a new 60 minutes tonight against a good team, and I’ve got to be prepared.”
Niemi’s season has essentially mirrored his team. He got off to a brilliant start and was named as one of the league’s three stars for the month of October, but since then, he’s struggled. In his last five games, Niemi has a 3.91 GAA and .878 SP, allowing four goals in four of the five games. On Oct. 27, just before the team’s slide began, he was 9-1-1 with a 1.53 GAA and .933 SP.
McLellan was asked if starting Stalock has anything to do with the fact that the Sharks haven’t won a game in more than two weeks.
“Every decision we make is based on the fact that we haven’t won in five games,” he said. “We’re trying to win the game and put things together. We’re on a five-game road trip with five games in [eight] nights, with a lot of travel. To expect Nemo to play every night is unreasonable.”
Joe Pavelski said: “Every time [Stalock has] come in, he’s played great for us. He’s made the saves, he’s challenged [shooters], so it’s good to see and nice to know you’ve got a guy that can come in and play well.”
Brad Stuart will also make his return after he was a healthy scratch in Winnipeg on Sunday. Some rearranged defensive pairs will see Stuart will skate with Justin Braun, Dan Boyle with Marc-Edouard Vlasic, while Jason Demers and Scott Hannan will stay together based on the morning skate. Matt Irwin will sit for the fourth time in five games, McLellan confirmed.
Stuart thought the Sharks’ compete level was better than it had been recently in the 5-4 shootout loss to the Jets. The team will have to duplicate that against a young Flames team that has lost five of its last six games, including three in a row, all in regulation.
“A lot of it is just execution of little details, and being smarter,” Stuart said. “I thought our effort was a lot better in Winnipeg, but you’ve got to combine the effort with the execution. If you don’t have one or the other, it’s tough sliding.”
Pavelski said: “We have to definitely match that work ethic, and execute way better than we have.”
Could Stalock, a popular guy with his teammates, provide that extra spark that’s been missing in the last five games?
“As far as our team goes, I don’t think a change in goalie is going to be a thing that snaps us,” Stuart said. “We’ve got to do it ourselves.”