SAN JOSE, Calif. --
If San Jose Sharks
goaltender Thomas Greiss
had any butterflies Saturday morning, just hours before his first career NHL opening night start, he did a good job hiding them.
"I'm excited to play," Greiss said, smiling as he fielded questions after the Sharks' final tune-up for their opener against Phoenix. "Home opener, it's great."
A year ago, Greiss was playing for Brynas in the Swedish Elite League. He re-signed with the Sharks, even though they already had two veteran goaltenders, starter Antti Niemi
and backup Antero Niittymaki
. But Niemi is still recovering from minor surgery to remove a cyst on a leg, and Niittymaki will be out for months after undergoing hip surgery.
Enter Greiss, drafted in the third by San Jose in 2004.
Greiss, who backed up former Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov
two seasons ago, went 4-1 in the exhibition season with a 1.71 goals against average and a .926 save percentage.
"I want to play and show how good I can play, play my best," Greiss said. "I want to get as many starts as I can in the future."
Sharks coach Todd McLellan
said it will be important for Greiss to get off to a good start against Phoenix.
"We want him to feel good," McLellan said. "The other five that are on the ice with him at that time have to do their thing so that he can. He's played well throughout the exhibition season. He's played in this building before. He's played in big games. We feel comfortable with him."
Phoenix will open the season with a new goalie of its own, Mike Smith
, a free agent pickup from Tampa Bay. Smith replaces Ilya Bryzgalov
, who signed a mega-deal with Philadelphia.
"I think I've got a pretty relaxed mind right now," said Smith, who played as a rookie in Dallas for Coyotes coach Dave Tippett
. "Great guys on the team. They play for each other, so I haven't put too much pressure on myself. But I'm sure I'll be a little nervous tonight."
Defenseman Keith Yandle
said Smith has "fit in great" with the Coyotes.
"Just the way he carries himself, the way he plays, playing the puck, helping the defense back there. It's a nice change from (Bryzgalov), who wouldn't come out of the net and stop the puck for us. It's going to be fun. Having him back there helps us out and helps us hopefully spend less time in our zone. It's a fun change."
The Sharks will have a few new faces in their lineup. Former New Jersey defenseman Colin White
, a free-agent addition, said he'll make his Sharks debut Saturday night, in the third pair alongside Jason Demers
. The Sharks have seven defensemen on their roster, and White and Jim Vandermeer
, another free agent pickup, are expected to share that spot in the lineup.
"I'm excited obviously to get things started," White said. "Long week with no games, just practicing. .. We've been waiting. We've been ready. It should be fun to get the atmosphere going tonight. Nice to be in this building. The games were great even in preseason. I'm excited to hear them tonight."
Phoenix center Daymond Langkow
said he's ready to get his second stint as a Coyote under way. Langkow, who came to Phoenix from Calgary in a trade, played only four games last season because of a neck injury.
"I'm excited," Langkow said. "New team. Great group of guys here. Hopefully we can start this out on the right foot and get a win tonight. In a short period of time we've really come together well. Tonight will be a good test for us. Hopefully we come ready to play."