The past two years, the story with San Jose and Tampa Bay has been Dan Boyle
playing his former team. On Saturday it was about Antero Niittymaki and his former Lightning ties. Niittymaki was the first goalie off the ice and looked likely to be positioned as the starter against the club he represented last year.
Niittymaki didn’t have much of a reunion with his old teammates though as he was catching up on some family time with his children after being on the road for most of the week.
“We’ve been on the road and I haven’t seen my kids in five days,” Niittymaki said. “I talk to the trainers once in a while. There are a couple of guys still there. Actually the closest guys to me there were traded away or signed somewhere else.”
Niittymaki said the transition from Tampa Bay to San Jose has been fairly easy on the ice thanks to a netminding connection. Tampa’s netminding guru is Cap Raeder, who worked with San Jose for several seasons before moving to the Lightning. Raeder worked closely with Sharks netminding expert Wayne Thomas for that time period and the goaltending approaches are very much alike.
“I think Wayne and Cap are pretty close friends,” Niittymaki said. “Cap was obviously here for a long time. I like what Cap was doing and I think we had a good relationship. It’s pretty much the same here.”
Niittymaki and Boyle are both glad to see the turnaround Tampa Bay has had this season after a couple of difficult campaigns. The resurrection is not a surprise given the high end scoring talent in Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.
“Stamkos, Vinny, St. Louis, those guys are great players,” Niittymaki said. “They are doing well and I’m happy to see it. It’s a good place to play.”
“They are good players, all world class players,” Boyle said. “Stamkos is separating himself from the pack right now (in the scoring race). We’ll have to limit their chances and let the goalie see the puck. Like most other teams, those guys don’t want to play in their end. The more time in their end, the better. Puck possession is huge. The less they have it, the better for us.”
When a goaltender face his former team, the question becomes, who has the advantage?
“I don’t think it really matters,” Niittymaki stated. “It happens so quick out there. If you go to the shootout, I don’t know if it helps anybody. I might think I know what their guys are doing, but they know me as well. They might have something knew I haven’t seen. If you start thinking too much like that, it’s probably against you.”
The Sharks have made a definitive effort to move on from Joe Thornton
’s suspension. It’s not like they’re pretending they won’t miss him as a result of the NHL removing him for two games, but they know dwelling on it won’t help the club.
“We don’t agree with it, but we’re going to live with it,” Boyle said.
“The Joe thing was yesterday’s news, we’re moving on,” McLellan said. “We talked about it yesterday. We’ve got some new lines. We’ve got some people who are going to fill in on the power play. Maybe they play well and earn more power play time. Opportunity exists because of Joe’s misfortune.”
San Jose has called up Benn Ferriero
for the game, but who plays with who will still be determined. There is no question players like Ferriero, Logan Couture
and Torrey Mitchell
could be among those players McLellan is referring to.
has played very well in Worcester,” McLellan said. “He’s scored a lot of points in very few games down there. The best case scenario is he comes up and takes somebody’s job.”
By the time the morning skate rolled around, it had already been a long day for Ferriero.
“Yesterday right before the game in Worcester,” Ferriero said about when he received the news. “I left this morning at 3 a.m. (for a 6 a.m. flight). Got in five minutes before practice started today. Threw my equipment on and we’ll see how it goes tonight. I’m used to it, so it’s not bad.”
San Jose will host Tampa Bay at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and www.ticketmaster.com. The contest will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.