After failing to help bring a Stanley Cup to San Jose in five seasons with the Sharks, Antti Niemi has landed with a club that hopes to be a serious contender throughout this one.
Dealt to Dallas over the summer, Niemi is likely to face the visiting Sharks for the first time since that trade when the Western Conference-leading Stars try to continue their early success Saturday.
Niemi won a Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010, then signed with San Jose following that season. The Sharks reached the conference finals with him in 2011, but won one playoff series over the next three years and missed the postseason for the first time in 11 last season.
After Niemi suffered a career-high 23 losses in 2014-15, the Sharks never made a serious offer to bring him back and traded his rights to Dallas on June 27 for a seventh-round pick. Two days later, he signed a three-year deal with the Stars (8-2-0) worth $13.5 million.
"It’s a great time to be able to play with one of the up-and-coming teams who has lots of talent," Niemi, who posted 163 wins and had a 2.40 goals-against average for the Sharks, told the NHL’s official website this summer.
Teamed with fellow Finn Kari Lehtonen, Niemi is 5-1-0 with a 2.32 GAA as a starter and came off the bench in another game this month. He’s set to make a third straight start for the first time this season as the Stars look to keep surging following back-to-back 4-3 victories.
Niemi made 29 saves, Patrick Sharp had two goals and Jamie Benn scored in overtime as Dallas rallied from a two-goal, third-period deficit to beat Vancouver on Thursday. The Stars overcame a 3-0 hole to top Anaheim on Tuesday.
"We’re learning to battle through some tough situations and come up with some big wins," coach Lindy Ruff told the Stars’ official website.
Benn is among the NHL leaders with nine goals and eight assists, while Tyler Seguin has four assists in the last three games. Sharp has recorded all three of his goals in the past two.
"One thing we are learning is that we are never out of a game," said Sharp, Niemi’s teammate in Chicago. "We’ve got some firepower in there, we’ve got some speed and we are well-conditioned. So, we are going to play great right to the end."
Though the Stars dropped both home meetings with San Jose (5-4-0) last season, they snapped a four-game series skid with a 5-1 victory April 6. Benn had two goals and an assist in that contest.
San Jose allowed two goals in the first four games this season but has since yielded 18 in dropping four of five. Brought in to replace Niemi, ex-Los Angeles Kings backup Martin Jones stopped 108 of 110 shots in the first four but has posted a 3.02 GAA in losing three of his last four starts.
He allowed the go-ahead score in the third period of Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to Nashville.
"I give up a couple of soft goals and that’s the difference in the game," Jones said.
Teammate Joe Pavelski has two goals in as many games, and four assists in his last three at Dallas.