When it came time to announce his starting netminder for Saturday’s showdown with Chicago, Todd McLellan tabbed Antti Niemi
to play against his former team. McLellan is finding balance in the playing time for Niemi and Antero Niittymaki while riding the hot hand this season. For Wednesday, there was another factor in the decision.
“Niittymaki had an opportunity to play against his old team and I thought our team raised its level of play as a whole,” McLellan said. “They wanted to play for him and they felt really good about going out and competing and I think that came into the decision. I think he’s looked forward to the opportunity and he’s earned that right.”
Niittymaki believes the contest will be a positive for Niemi since he had a similar call.
“I think it’s good,” Niittymaki said. “I was in Tampa for one year. He won the Cup and it’s a tight group when you do that. It was weirder when I played against Philly the first year. I think there is that extra motivation and you are more mentally ready to play that game than any game. I think it’s good to play those games.”
Niemi likes getting the call no matter who the opponent is, but acknowledged a bit of bump with it being Chicago.
“Of course I was really excited, it doesn’t matter who we are playing against, I want to play,” Niemi said. “I felt pretty good after they told me. It feels weird playing against your old teammates, but it’s part of the process. I’m not trying to think about the game being too special. It’s a game and we need to get wins.”
There was a media question about a Chicago player who stated he felt he knew where to fire on Niemi in a shootout.
“Not too much,” Niemi said of an advantage either way. “You can’t cheat or they will do something else. I might have some ideas, but always want to follow the puck.”
A strong win against Chicago could be one of those wins that helps raise the netminder’s confidence to another level.
“I think it could be a real boost for him,” McLellan said. “Obviously they are the team to beat, they are the ones with the rings on their fingers right now. They are considered the elite, so if Antti can come out and have a solid game against his old team, it can help.”
When Justin Braun
got the call that he was headed to San Jose yesterday, there wasn’t a major need to arrange an airport shuttle.
“We were driving to Hershey and got the call,” Braun said. “So we headed to Newark airport and dropped me off. It wasn’t too far out of the way. It’s something (the call) you always think about. You don’t think about being on the bus on a road trip.”
The good news is he was surrounded by his teammates for the good news.
“They were all giving me grief and telling me what to do up here,” Braun said. “The parents were very excited and they will be watching from Minnesota.”
That call is what all AHL players hope for and Braun, a first year pro, is no different.
“I’m just trying to take it all in right now and figure it out as I go,” Braun said. “I asked (Joslin) on about every (morning skate) drill and he explained it pretty well. It’s a little different up here than down in Worcester.”
Since the Worcester Sharks were on a one day trip to Hershey they were given a reprieve on wearing suits for the bus ride, so Braun had to arrange for a suit to be sent out. If he accompanies San Jose to Vancouver and Edmonton, he may have to make a trip to the clothing store.
Braun had a familiar face greet him in the lockerroom when Chicago broadcaster Eddie Olczyk made sure to quickly say hello.
“His son played on my college team with me last year as a freshman when I was a senior,” Braun said.
It appears that Dish Networks subscribers will be excluded from watching tonight’s contest and the problem could be ongoing. Dish Network decided not to accept an arbitration ruling and the result is, until something changes, Dish Network users won’t be able to view CSN California. This does not affect cable users. The following statement is from Comcast:
“EchoStar’s Dish Network has disregarded the FCC arbitration process and turned its back on its own customers by unilaterally dropping Comcast SportsNet California. After losing the arbitration that they themselves initiated, Dish Network decided to deny fans access to this network rather than accept the outcome of the arbitration. We hope that Dish will quickly realize that refusing to accept the arbitration decision is detrimental to consumers, and restore Comcast SportsNet California under the contract decided by the arbitrator”
The Sharks will host Chicago at 7:30 p.m. and the game will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjshsarks.com. Tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and www.ticketmaster.com.