The last time he was in net, Antti Niemi suffered the first
series-ending playoff loss of his career as the San Jose Sharks
fell one step short of the Stanley Cup finals for a second straight
San Jose will likely need another solid season from its Finnish
goaltender if it is going to reach the finals for the first
Niemi is expected to return from a knee injury and make his
season debut Monday night when the Sharks host an Anaheim Ducks
team trying to extend its winning streak to four with a second
victory in this Pacific Division rivalry in four days.
Niemi, who helped Chicago sweep San Jose in the 2010 Western
Conference finals en route to winning a Stanley Cup, saw his first
season with the Sharks end with a 3-2, double-overtime loss in
Vancouver on May 24. Niemi, who went 35-18-6 with a 2.38
goals-against average in the regular season and started all 18
playoff contests, had won his previous six playoff series prior to
getting eliminated by the Canucks in five games.
“It feels terrible,” he said.
Niemi figured to be the Sharks’ No. 1 goaltender again after
signing a four-year extension in March, but he hasn’t played since
getting a cyst removed from his knee before training camp. After
backing up Thomas Greiss in each of the last two games including a
1-0 loss Friday at Anaheim, coach Todd McLellan will likely turn to
Niemi went 2-1-0 with a 2.01 GAA versus the Ducks last
The Sharks (1-2-0), who opened 1-2-1 last season and fell as low
12th in the West in January before rallying for their fourth
straight Pacific Division title, could use a lift after dropping
their second in a row Saturday, 4-2 to visiting St. Louis.
“We didn’t make a lot of mistakes,” McLellan said. “But we made
enough for them to score.”
Finding the back of the net has been a problem for the Sharks’
top four returning scorers – Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Ryane
Clowe and captain Joe Thornton – who have one goal between them,
and none since Clowe scored in the season opener, a 6-3 victory
over Phoenix on Oct. 8.
The Ducks (3-1-0) had received no production from their top line
of Bobby Ryan, reigning Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry and captain
Ryan Getzlaf until Sunday’s 4-2 victory over the Blues. Ryan scored
twice with an assist, Perry added a goal for the club’s first in 16
power-play chances and Getzlaf set up two scores.
“We knew we would score eventually,” coach Randy Carlyle said.
“But the longer you go, the more the pressure mounts and guys start
squeezing their sticks.”
While the Ducks are coming off their highest scoring output of
the young season, their defense has been consistently solid during
their three-game winning streak, allowing three total goals.
Goaltender Jonas Hiller can take much of the credit for that.
After playing just 83 minutes following his first All-Star game
appearance in 2010-11 due to a bout of vertigo, Hiller has turned
away 94 of 101 shots while starting each game of the new season for
He made 31 saves Friday for his 12th career shutout, improving
to 4-0 with a 1.64 GAA in his last five starts against the
The Ducks, though, have just one win in regulation in their last
10 games in San Jose.