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Posted On Saturday, 11.05.2011 / 3:45 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Sharks come right back with Niemi

SAN JOSE – Antti Niemi will be back in goal Saturday night for the Sharks against Nashville, two days after giving up two goals in the first two minutes and four seconds against Pittsburgh and getting pulled for backup Thomas Greiss.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said the decision to start Niemi was an “easy” one for him to make, even though Greiss gave up just one goal and stopped 29 of 30 shots in a 4-3 shootout win.

“He’s going to be our goaltender when it counts,” McLellan said Saturday of Niemi after the Sharks’ morning skate at HP Pavilion. “He hasn’t had a lot of time throughout training camp and he needs to play some games. So it’s pretty simple. With that being said, Thomas played extremely well. We all appreciate his effort and he’ll get many more opportunities to play this year, but tonight it’s about [Niemi] getting his game back.”

Niemi, who faced just six shots Thursday, said he’s ready to put the game behind him.

“I think just get right back at it. Hopefully get some saves today early on. For my part, I want to get past that game as fast as possible,” Niemi said.

McLellan said he expects Niemi to bounce back and have a solid game.

“The other night I think there was a real focus on us pulling [Niemi], but if we could have pulled 18 other guys and replaced them, we would have done that, too,” McLellan said. “It just happens to be that position where a goaltender gets yanked and he doesn’t go back in. we expect him to be sharp along with the other 18 guys that are dressed.”

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Posted On Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 5:59 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Blues, Sharks

Here are the possible lineups for the Blues and Sharks for tonight's game in San Jose.

BLUES
T.J. Oshie - David Backes - Jamie Langenbrunner
Vladimir Sobotka - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart
Alexander Steen - Jason Arnott - Matt D'Agostini
Evgeny Grachev - Scott Nichol - Chris Porter

Kent Huskins - Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Nikita Nikitin - Roman Polak

Brian Elliott will make his season debut in goal, with Jaroslav Halak serving as the backup.

SHARKS
Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Andrew Murray

Dan Boyle - Douglas Murray
Brent Burns - Marc-Edouard-Vlasic
Jason Demers - Jim Vandermeer

Thomas Greiss was the first goalie off the ice after the morning skate, meaning its likely he's the starter. However, coach Todd McLellan said it would be a game-time decision on whether it's Greiss or Antti Niemi.

For more on the game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 5:33 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Homecoming game for 2 Blues

Saturday night's game will be a homecoming of sorts for Blues center Scot Nichol and defenseman Kent Huskins, a pair of ex-Sharks. Meanwhile, Sharks fourth-line forward Brad Winchester will face his former team.

Nichol is known as an agitator, and he said that won't change, even against his former teammates. Nichol spent the last two season in San Jose.

"That's my game," Nichol said. "Everyone has a role. You just play hard in between whistles. It's always nice to come in and have a good game and be successful coming into your old rink. We'll just see how it goes. I made some great friends over the last couple years here, but it's sports and it's a job."

Huskins, who also played the previous two seasons with the Sharks, is skating on the first defensive pair with Alex Pietrangelo.

"I enjoyed my time here," Huskins said. "I felt like I learned a lot as a player. Went through some tough things injury-wise, but in the long run, overcoming that kind of makes you a stronger person. I'm looking to kind of bring that to the table in St. Louis. I'm really excited to be here now with this group."

Winchester said he had a "lot of memories" from his time in St. Louis.

"It's a tight-knit group in that locker room. We went through a lot with that playoff run a few years ago," Winchester said. "Certainly with the coaching change and all of that, there were some really good times there. Still, I'm tight with a lot of those guys in the room, and the city of St. Louis, a fantastic place."
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Posted On Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 5:29 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Burns feels terrible for Blake

During Friday night's game, Sharks defenseman Brent Burns accidentally sliced the left forearm of Anaheim's Jason Blake with his skate. The Ducks said Saturday that Blake will undergo surgery Monday to repair severed tendons and will need three months to recover.

"You feel bad," Burns said. "You never want to have that happen. I rushed out and saw him just before he went in the ambulance. As I'm walking back, he's got his family there with his kids. You never want that."

Burns said initially he didn't realize he had injured Blake.

"It was a weird, freak play," Burns said. "The battle on the faceoff. I didn't really know he fell right away. He was kind of behind me. The puck was kind of there. I was trying to kick the puck up. I think he was trying to get the puck. It was just a battle. I didn't really know he was on the ground. I was trying to kick it up."

McLellan said it "wasn't a pretty site" with Blake on the ice, bleeding.

"We talk a lot about protecting players and making the environment safe for them. That's probably one area that we've got to talk about," McLellan said. "The skates are so sharp. The physicality of the game, the intensity of it, guys are on the ice an awful lot. We all hope that Jason's OK."
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Posted On Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 5:25 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Questions in goal for Sharks

Sharks coach Todd McLellan refused to name a starting goalie -- Thomas Greiss or Antti Niemi -- for tonight's game. Greiss was the first goalie off the ice during Saturday's optional skate, an indication he'll probably start his third straight game.

Niemi, who underwent surgery to remove a cyst from a leg in late September, missed the first game and dressed as the backup Friday night.

"Nemo (Niemi) is available to us, and we'll make a decision before the game tonight on who is playing," McLellan said.

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Posted On Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 5:23 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Vandermeer in for Sharks

San Jose, coming off a 1-0 loss Friday night to Anaheim, likely will have one lineup change. Defenseman Jim Vandermeer will make his Sharks debut in place of Colin White, and team with Jason Demers in the third pair.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said there's a "very good chance" Vandermeer will play against St. Louis.

"I'm definitely excited to get going, whether it's tonight or the next game or the game after that," Vandermeer said. "Whenever it is, I'll be ready to go."
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Posted On Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 5:22 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Grachev, Porter draw in for Blues

The head injury first-line center Andy McDonald suffered Thursday against Dallas has forced Blues coach Davis Payne to juggle his lineup for tonight's game against the Sharks. McDonald returned to St. Louis on Friday to be examined by team doctors, and the Blues won't have an update on his situation until Monday.

His absence means Evgeny Grachev and Chris Porter, healthy scratches in the Blues' first three games, likely will skate together on the fourth line, with center Scott Nichol.

Grachev, acquired from the New York Rangers over the summer, said he's "excited" to play his first game as a Blue and is confident after a strong preseason.

"I feel comfortable after playing all those game," Grachev said. "I feel comfortable with the group that's here. Nothing outside of me can prevent me from doing my best. It's all up to me. I'm real comfortable with everything here, and I'm confident in my abilities. I've just got to work hard and see what happens."

Payne declined to reveal how he would juggle his lines in the wake of McDonald's injury.

"With Andy's situation, obviously somebody's going to draw into that spot," Payne said. "We'll look at a number of different options tonight."

One option would be to move left wing T.J. Oshie from the second line to McDonald's spot on the first line, then shift Vladimir Sobotka from the fourth line to Oshie's spot.
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Posted On Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 5:18 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Elliott to start for Blues

Backup goalie Brian Elliott will make his first start Blues tonight when St. Louis plays the San Jose Sharks.

Elliott will start in place of Jaroslav Halak, who is expected to be back in goal Sunday, when the Blues play at Anaheim in the second of back-to-back games. Elliott, a free-agent pickup, hasn't played since the preseason, but coach Davis Payne said he's not concerned.

"No worries about that," Payne said after the Blues' morning skate at HP Pavilion. "One thing a goalie in that situation knows is he's got to prepare extremely well. He's worked his tail off. A guy that does that, he's got a good foundation to step in and perform well."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.21.2011 / 2:40 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2011 Western Conf. Final: Canucks-Sharks Blog

Sharks stick to the plan

SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Sharks had stressed the importance of staying out of the penalty box Friday night in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals after getting scorched by Daniel and Henrik Sedin on the power play in a Game 2 loss to Vancouver.
 
That plan worked to perfection for the Sharks in the first period as they built a 3-0 lead. Then the second period began, and the penalties returned. In a span of less than nine minutes, the Sharks were hit with four penalties, as Joe Pavelski, Andrew Desjardins, Joe Thornton and Desjardins again paraded to the penalty box.
 
But instead of having another penalty kill meltdown, the Sharks prevailed during that critical stretch. They killed all four of those second-period penalties, including two when the Canucks had 5-on-3 advantages. And instead of blowing part or all of their lead, which their leaky penalty kill in Game 2 suggested they might do, the Sharks took their 3-0 edge into the third period and held on for a 4-3 win.
 
During most of that 5-on-3 time, Pavelski and defensemen Douglas Murray and Marc-Edouard Vlasic were on the ice with goaltender Antti Niemi.
 
Pavelski, Murray and Vlasic formed a tight triangle of bodies in front of Niemi. The shots that did get past that wall, Niemi handled.
 
"It's tough," Vlasic said. "You're just trying to stay in a small triangle, blocking all the shots, getting in lanes. Murray and Pavelski blocked five each, I think. So it was huge. They're going up and down. I'm going side to side, just getting in lanes, and Nemo made a nice save once or twice. We limited their chances 5-on-3, but guys did a great job blocking shots."
 
Murray had five blocks for the game, while Pavelski had three and Vlasic two.
 
"Obviously you can't cover everything," Murray said. "You've just got to block as many shots as you can when they're taking them. I think we did a good job of that. Whatever went through, Nemo took care of."
 
The key to the Sharks' success against Vancouver's 5-on-3 onslaught was for the defensemen to stay in a tight group in front of Niemi, Murray said.
 
"If you spread it out too much you can't recover and they can make plays through the box," Murray said. "We're trying to make sure – I mean somebody's going to be open, it's 5-on-3 – whatever shots they're taking we can block them or Nemo doesn't move too much side to side. Tried to make it as easy of shots as possible."
 
In Game 2, Vancouver had three power play goals in seven chances, with Daniel Sedin scoring twice with the man advantage, and Henrik Sedin assisting on both goals.
 
"It was great adjustment there on the 5-on 3," Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said. "They were bombing away. It's tough to get too much done when you've only got three guys, so all you've got to do is hope and block shots, and that's what we did."
 
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