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Stalock to start for Sharks; Huberdeau back in place

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- San Jose Sharks goalie Alex Stalock will get a rare start Thursday against the Florida Panthers.

Stalock, a fourth-round pick (No. 112) in the 2005 NHL Draft who made his first NHL start Oct. 27, will make his seventh start of the season but only his second in the past 12 games.

Antti Niemi gave up three goals in the past three games, but Sharks coach Todd McLellan said it was part of a plan to keep his goalie fresh for the playoffs, particularly with Niemi competing for Finland in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Stalock allowed two goals on 35 shots in his previous start, a 3-2 shootout victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 5.

Stalock will be going against veteran Tim Thomas, who will make his seventh consecutive start in net for the Panthers. Thomas hasn't allowed more than two goals in any of his past four starts.

Despite being benched for the last 17:22 of the third period in Florida's 4-2 victory against the New York Islanders on Tuesday, 2013 Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau will take his normal place on a line with veterans Marcel Goc and Tomas Kopecky.

Huberdeau has gone 14 games without a goal and was on the ice for both Islanders goals Tuesday.

"I want to see him compete away from the puck, with the puck," Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek said. "I don't want to see him worrying about whether goals are going in or not. I just want to see him work. He's a skilled, smart hockey player. With that, things will start happening for him. He just needs to get back to feeling confidently with his ability to work.

"It's adversity. He hasn't faced a lot of adversity in his career. He had a great first year. He had a great junior career. He's never had an area where he hasn't been scoring on a regular basis. Those things are going to happen to a lot of players and the best players in the world go through it. For him it's just get back to work."

Huberdeau said he needs to start having fun again.

"Sometimes you're thinking too much," he said. "You're not doing as well and you start telling yourself, I've got to do this, this, this. It's just getting back to basics. Having fun on the ice is important and stop thinking about so many things. I've just got to focus on the ice and every time on the ice work my hardest. I proved last year I could do it. So why can't I do it this year?"

Here are the projected lineups for the Sharks and Panthers on Thursday:


Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns

Matt Nieto - Patrick Marleau - Tommy Wingels

Bracken Kearns - Andrew Desjardins - Tyler Kennedy

Eriah Hayes - John McCarthy - James Sheppard

Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Jason Demers

Brad Stuart - Justin Braun

Alex Stalock

Antti Niemi

Scratched: Mike Brown, Matt Tennyson

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


Sean Bergenheim - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes

Tomas Fleischmann - Nick Bjugstad - Scottie Upshall

Jonathan Huberdeau - Marcel Goc - Tomas Kopecky

Shawn Matthias - Drew Shore - Krys Barch

Brian Campbell - Tom Gilbert

Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver

Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Tim Thomas

Scott Clemmensen

Scratched: Scott Gomez, Mike Mottau, Jimmy Hayes

Injured: Dylan Olsen (lower body), Jesse Winchester (upper body)

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