is a quiet individual, so quiet in fact that his contract extension came as quite a surprise to the locker room when the media began asking about it. Niemi’s teammates may have been caught off guard, but they were very excited about the news.
“It couldn’t happen to a better guy,” Logan Couture
said. “He’s the hardest working goalie I’ve ever shot on. He never gives up on a puck in practice. Over the last 19 games, you’ve seen how he’s really won games for us. Last year, we saw in the playoffs how he stole a certain amount of games for the Hawks down the stretch. I’m glad he’s in our nets and not someone else’s. He’s one of the elite goalies in the League.”
Niemi has become an integral part of the Sharks on-ice performance, but his company is enjoyed by everyone in the room.
“It really is,” Joe Thornton
said about the importance of Niemi fitting in the room. “He’s been playing unbelievable all year. To know he signed a contract extension has a big smile on my face and I’m sure the same for the 23 other guys in here. He’s become a friend in here. His wife loves it here and ultimately he loves it here.”
Head Coach Todd McLellan said Niemi’s contract status with the Sharks will only help their playoff push.
“I think Nemo is going to be happy to begin with. I think he’s found himself a home here,” McLellan said. “(The rest of the team) is very comfortable with him as a goaltender. You can play with a goaltender or for a goaltender and I think this is a goalie our team plays for. As a staff and an organization, we’re very excited.”
One only needs to look back to last year to be reminded of what Niemi can bring to a team.
“This guy has a ring on his finger and it’s very important that he continues to be part of our organization,” McLellan said.
Niemi joins the list of players who have committed to staying in San Jose and the group begins with Thornton.
“It tells you how much people love playing here,” Thornton said. “They like playing in front of what I think is one of the best fans in all of sports. The organization is great. The quality of living is great. Everything about playing here in San Jose is top notch. Everybody that comes out here and plays here finds out how much they fall in love with it.”
The team is the most important factor, but Niemi says the fans play a role.
“It’s great to have a great fan base,” Niemi said. “The weather is a minor thing that doesn’t affect that much. It’s more of a bonus. I think the locker room and the atmosphere are great.”
Niemi pointed out it was a two-way street with both his camp and the Sharks wanting to achieve a long-term deal.
“I think it was a little bit of both,” Niemi said. “It was in my mind last summer and the first couple of months after I saw the place and met the team, it confirmed it. It’s always fun when you’re winning. With these guys, it’s been great. We’ve been talking about it for a month. The past week we talked more about it and came to terms.”
This marks Niemi’s first long-term, one-way NHL contract.
“It’s the first time to have something for a longer term and it’s a great thing,” Niemi said. “It shouldn’t change anything and we’ll keep doing what we’re doing.”
IN OR OUT?
McLellan confirmed that defenseman Dan Boyle
and forward Ben Eager would miss tonight’s game against Colorado.
“No Eager, no Boyle,” McLellan said. “Getting better and day-to-day.”
That combined with the longer termed absences of Kent Huskins, Scott Nichol and Antero Nittymaki means the Sharks are without five players who are part of the normal 20-man lineup.
“Four regulars out and a goaltender still working his way in,” McLellan said. “It’s as deep as we’ve had to go.”
The Sharks will play hosts to Colorado at 7:30 Tuesday and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office or at www.ticketmaster.com. The contest can be found on CSN California, 98.5 and 102.1 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.