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Sharks stick with Stalock against Hurricanes

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks backup goaltender Alex Stalock will get a second straight start for the first time in his NHL career Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes at SAP Center.

Stalock is 10-4-0 with a 1.78 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. He won two games on the Sharks' recent three-game road trip, beating the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils while allowing a combined five goals on 53 shots.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he's playing the hot hand but is also giving No. 1 goaltender Antti Niemi more time to adjust after his return from the 2014 Sochi Olympics with Finland's bronze medal-winning team.

"He's playing well right now," McLellan said of Stalock. "He's won some games for us. He looks comfortable in the net. Gives [Niemi] time to come home. When you think of his trip back from Europe, he hasn't had any practice time. So it gives him a day here to skate and another one tomorrow."

Niemi, who didn't get any playing time for Finland, lost his only start on the road trip, giving up three goals in 19 shots against the Buffalo Sabres. He's 29-13-6 with a 2.40 GAA and .911 save percentage.

"We always talk about it being tough with the long breaks to stay sharp," Stalock said. "Obviously playing back-to-back, you just can kind of keep the momentum going you had last game."

McLellan said he expects Stalock to raise his level of play Tuesday night and Niemi to remain his top goaltender down the stretch and in the playoffs.

"I think that's exciting for him," McLellan said of Stalock starting two straight games. "I think we really believe he'll rise to the occasion because of it. And again that is also part of experience and the test. [Niemi's] got a ton of playoff experience. We expect him to be superb when that starts, but you never know what happens in a series -- injury, illness, level of play -- and the guy you might turn to has to be prepared and has to have experienced just about every aspect of the game prior to getting there."

Stalock had one of his roughest starts of the season Dec. 6 at Carolina, allowing four goals -- three the third period -- on 34 shots in a 5-3 loss.

"They got a good group of veterans as well as young guys that have become great players in this League already," Stalock said of the Hurricanes. "They come into the zone with speed and create chaos in the offensive zone. We saw that in Carolina in the third period. It's going to be a test tonight."

Carolina will be without defenseman Justin Faulk, who suffered an upper-body injury in the first period Sunday in a 5-3 loss against the Anaheim Ducks.

"Probably be out about a week, 7-10 days," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said after his team's morning skate.

Muller will insert defenseman Mike Komisarek into the lineup and adjust his pairings, putting Brett Bellemore in Faulk's spot with Andrej Sekera. Komisarek will skate with Jay Harrison, while John-Michael Liles will be paired with Ron Hainsey.

"Obviously when you lose anyone it's going to be difficult to adjust, especially the caliber of player that Faulk is," Bellemore said. "Some of us will maybe get a little extra minutes when he's gone. We've got to make the most of them."

The Hurricanes have lost five straight games, including the past four on their five-game road trip, which concludes against the Sharks. The Hurricanes outshot the Ducks 52-34, but lost 5-3.

"There may have been a little frustration set in," Bellemore said of the road trip. "For the most part we've been playing some pretty good hockey. We're looking right now for something to turn this around."

Here are the projected lineups for the Hurricanes and Sharks:


Jeff Skinner - Eric Staal - Elias Lindholm

Jiri Tlusty - Jordan Staal - Alexander Semin

Nathan Gerbe - Riley Nash - Tuomo Ruutu

Drayson Bowman - Manny Malhotra - Patrick Dwyer

Andrej Sekera - Brett Bellemore

Ron Hainsey - John-Michael Liles

Jay Harrison - Mike Komisarek

Anton Khudobin

Cam Ward

Scratched: Radek Dvorak

Injured: Justin Faulk (upper body), Joni Pitkanen (heel)


Matt Nieto - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels

Raffi Torres - James Sheppard - Brent Burns

Marty Havlat - Andrew Desjardins - Tyler Kennedy

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Jason Demers

Justin Braun - Matt Irwin

Dan Boyle - Scott Hannan

Alex Stalock

Antti Niemi

Scratched: Matt Tennyson, Adam Burish, Mike Brown

Injured: Brad Stuart (upper body), Tomas Hertl (knee surgery)

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