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At the Rink blog

Sharks' Niemi back in net vs. Wild

Saturday, 01.25.2014 / 9:06 PM

By Eric Gilmore - NHL.com Correspondent / 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

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2013-2014 At the Rink Blog
Sharks' Niemi back in net vs. Wild

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks backup goaltender Alex Stalock has shutouts in two straight starts after a 1-0 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday, but he'll have to wait to make back-to-back starts for the first time in his career.

No. 1 goaltender Antti Niemi will be back in net Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild at SAP Center.

Antti Niemi
Goalie - SJS
RECORD: 26-10-6
GAA: 2.38 | SVP: 0.913
Even though Stalock has returned to the bench after each of his first two career shutouts, which came one week apart, Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Stalock has made his goaltending decisions more difficult throughout the season.

"In September when he made the team, he made it difficult because he had a very good skill level there," McLellan said. "We were very confident. We don't take making goaltender decisions lightly. We talk about it. We consult the goaltending coaches. We look at the lineup. And believe it or not, we do have a plan. We're executing it as we move forward."

Niemi will participate in the 2014 Sochi Olympics for Finland, and McLellan has said he wants to reduce his workload going into the Olympics.

Niemi typically thrives on a heavy workload. Last season he appeared in 43 of 48 games and spent more minutes on the ice (2,581) than any other NHL goaltender. This season he has started 43 of 51 games, but he said "it's OK" if he gets more rest and it's comforting to know that the Sharks have such a skilled backup.

"Maybe it takes a little pressure off of me, but either way, I've got to be able to perform every game that I play," Niemi said.

Niemi said he's not surprised at how well Stalock has played because of "how hard" he works in practice.

"He wants to be out there. He doesn't want to take the short, easy route out there," Niemi said.

Minnesota will counter with 23-year-old goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who made 33 saves Thursday in a 2-1 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks. Kuemper, who's 5-3-0 with a 2.22 goals-against average, will make his seventh straight start.

"He's earning another opportunity to go out, the way that he's played and given us a chance every game," Wild coach Mike Yeo said after his team's morning skate. "Obviously, this will be a great test tonight. We know how they start, we know how they come out firing. So this will be a good opportunity to see how he handles that."

Wild left wing Zach Parise will be in the lineup for the second straight game after missing 14 games with a fractured left foot.

"Timing was a little off, but pain-wise and everything, that was all good," Parise said of his game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. "Everything felt much better. That's what I was looking for.

"I just think having the comfort of that first game and knowing it wasn't going to hurt like it was before, mentally that feels pretty good to not have to worry about that."

Here are the projected lineups for San Jose and Minnesota:

SHARKS

Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns

Matt Nieto - Patrick Marleau - Tommy Wingels

Bracken Kearns - Andrew Desjardins - Tyler Kennedy

Eriah Hayes - John McCarthy - Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Jason Demers

Brad Stuart - Justin Braun

Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle

Antti Niemi

Alex Stalock

Scratched: James Sheppard, Marty Havlat, Taylor Doherty

Injured: Logan Couture (hand surgery), Tomas Hertl (knee surgery), Raffi Torres (knee surgery) Adam Burish (back surgery), Scott Hannan (upper body)

WILD

Zach Parise - Charlie Coyle - Nino Niederreiter

Dany Heatley - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Matt Cooke - Kyle Brodziak - Justine Fontaine

Jason Zucker - Erik Haula - Torrey Mitchell

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Nate Prosser

Keith Ballard - Clayton Stoner

Darcy Kuemper

Niklas Backstrom

Scratched: Mike Rupp, Stephane Veilleux

Quote of the Day

I feel that responsibility, I've felt it for the last two years. We core guys get a lot of minutes, we get a lot of opportunity out there. Our teammates, the organization and fans look to us to be the guys to put the puck in the net and to create momentum out there.

— Jordan Eberle on taking his game and the Edmonton Oilers to the next level