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Clowe returns for Sharks, but Niemi injured

by Eric Gilmore /
SAN JOSE -- Sharks forward Ryane Clowe was activated from injured reserve and will return to the lineup Thursday night against Dallas, but San Jose will be without No. 1 goaltender Antti Niemi, who suffered a lower-body injury Wednesday during practice.

Backup goalie Thomas Greiss will start against the Stars. Tyson Sexsmith was recalled from Worcester of the AHL to serve as Greiss’ backup Thursday night, and veteran Antero Niittymaki, who cleared waivers, was assigned to Worcester. In another roster move, defenseman Jason Demers (lower body) was placed on injured reserve.

Niemi was injured when he was hit by a puck. A smiling Niemi called it a “mid-body” injury and said he’ll be back on the ice for practice Friday and will ready to play Saturday at Phoenix.

“It should be fine,” Niemi said.

Clowe missed the past six games because of a facial fracture he suffered Jan. 10 at Minnesota. He played three games after that – the first two while wearing a protective cage – before going on injured reserve. He wore a protective visor during Thursday morning’s optional skate at HP Pavilion, and he’ll wear one tonight in a game for the first time since his junior hockey days.

“I think it’s probably smart for another little bit to keep it on,” Clowe said. “I don’t want anything to happen, get smacked there again. It was weird, really weird. That was the first time I’ve worn a visor in a while, but it was a little better than a cage.”

“I was advised it was the right thing to do. I think it’s something where I know that if I wear it for a little bit I can take it off eventually here pretty soon hopefully.”

Clowe is known for his rugged, aggressive style of play, as well as his willingness to drop the gloves. Will he have to be more cautious in light of his injury?

“Obviously the fighting part will be not there, I guess. Who knows?” Clowe said. “I’m not going to say it’s not going to be there because you see what happened to (defenseman Colin White) last game. I don’t’ think it will change my style. I can’t be cautious. I wouldn’t play if I felt I had to be timid out there. I’ll be my normal self, I think.”

White rarely fights because an eye injury he suffered in 2007, but he fought during the third period against Columbus on Tuesday night after taking a shoulder to the head.

Clowe seemed more concerned about adjusting to the visor and to live-game action after a long layoff than about his injury.

“I think the first period will be a bit of a battle tonight,” Clowe said. “I’m sure I’ll be sucking wind. I’m sure I’ll have spit and snot and everything else in my visor that I’ll be trying to battle through. That’s what I’ve got to get used to, and then the legs come after that. I’ve got to be able to see first.”

Niemi has had back-to-back shutouts, beating Calgary and Columbus, but Greiss has been on a hot streak, too. He allowed just one goal in each of his past three starts, beating Columbus twice and losing to Edmonton in a shootout.

“He’s kept teams to one goal and he’s come in and played very well,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “There isn’t any added pressure on him, by any means. He just comes in and plays his game, and that’s what we want to see.”

Greiss will face a Dallas team that is coming off a 6-2 win Wednesday night at Anaheim but had scored a total of seven goals in its previous six games.

“They have a couple of really good shooters,” Greiss said. “(Mike) Ribeiro is really crafty. You have to be ready for him, especially on the power play. He can throw a couple moves at you.

“Their whole team likes to try to go to the net. A couple of … disturbers, too. It should be a fun game.”

Sexsmith, a third-round pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, struggled last year at Worcester when he played despite having a hernia, but he made the AHL All-Star team this year. He has a 2.15 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage for Worcester.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Sexsmith said. “I’ve been in San Jose for a few years now, just waiting for my chance – having a good year down in Worcester. I finally got a chance to come up here and see what it’s like.”

After playing Wednesday night at Anaheim, the Stars held an optional morning skate with just three players on the ice – forward Toby Petersen, defensemen Nicklas Grossman and Adam Pardy and goaltender Richard Bachman. Grossman missed the Anaheim game because of the flu, but he’ll likely return to the lineup Thursday night.

Bachman will start for Dallas in place of Kari Lehtonen, Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said Wednesday night after his team’s win over Anaheim. Bachman is 6-2-1 with a 2.50 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. In the Sharks’ 5-2 victory against Dallas on Dec. 8, Bachman saw his first action of the season for the Stars in relief of Andrew Raycroft and stopped all 11 shots he faced. After that, he played well enough to earn the backup job.

“As a young goaltender, he came in and took a veteran’s job,” McLellan said. “When you do that, you’re doing something well. They ran him for a while and got a number of wins from him, so he feels good about being in the league. After that, the rest will be up to us to try to get to him and get to some second chances in and around the net. But based on the pre-scout, he’s played pretty well for them.”
Here’s how the lineups could look Thursday night when the San Jose Sharks face the Dallas Stars at HP Pavilion:

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Benn Ferriero
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Jim Vandermeer

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Dan Boyle
Douglas Murray - Brent Burns
Colin White - Justin Braun

Thomas Greiss
Tyson Sexsmith

Brenden Morrow - Mike Ribeiro - Loui Eriksson
Steve Ott - Jamie Benn - Michael Ryder
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Jake Dowell - Tom Wandell - Adam Burish

Sheldon Souray - Stephane Robidas
Alex Goligoski - Philip Larsen
Nicklas Grossman - Trevor Daley

Richard Bachman
Kari Lehtonen
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