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Sharks, Niemi Ready For Game 6

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
LOS ANGELES -- Following Sunday's practice in San Jose, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan wasted no time in naming Antti Niemi his Game 6 starting goaltender. After Monday's optional morning skate, the Sharks locker room also expressed their confidence in their goaltender.

"Everybody shares the criticism and everybody is a part of it," said Sharks captain Joe Thornton. "We have Nemo's back. He's a great goaltender and he's going to play well for us tonight."

When asked specifically about Game 5, a 3-1 loss to the Kings in which Niemi was pulled, McLellan explained the situation.

"You can pull a defenseman or a forward off and send a message real quick, but unfortunately a goaltender is the one that gets welded to the bench," he said. "You hear coaches talk about it all the time. They're not just pulling the goaltender because of his performance. You're often pulling him to wake the rest of the group up and send a message and that's been the case in our scenario."

Each time McLellan has pulled his starting goaltender, the Sharks have responded to their coach's message, rallying from a 4-0 deficit to win Game 3 and clamping down defensively, keeping the Kings off the scoreboard for the game's final 51 minutes in Game 5.

Sharks alternate captain Ryane Clowe, who is tied for third in the NHL in playoff scoring, talked about focusing on a strong start and keeping emotions in check.

"It's not like we haven't had the energy early," he said. "We've maybe had a little too much. (We need to) look at how we played Game 4 in LA and the start we had. We didn't score early, but we played well."

When asked by reporters how he approached the past day and a half, Niemi talked about watching tape and mentally preparing for Game 6.

"Well you want to see the goals and see what you did wrong," Niemi said. "Then think about how you felt."

"Nemo has been our rock the second half of the year. he's won a lot of games for us," said Clowe. "He always makes the big save at the right time, he always responds well and that's the biggest sign you look for in a goalie is how they respond."

Though Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick frustrated San Jose's snipers in Game 5 stopping 51 of the 52 shots he faced, the Sharks believe they can break through in Game 6 if they bring the same effort.

"I don't think it's a big concern for us, the offensive stuff," said Clowe. "We just need to tighten up those mistakes. We've obviously scored a lot of goals and we've got a lot of confidence in our offensive ability and our depth."

"I think we have been playing well," added Thornton. "You know we were snakebitten last game, but we've proved we can score goals in this building and we're going to do that tonight."

McLellan spoke highly of both Niemi and Antero Niittymaki following Monday's pregame skate, adding that he believes it is critical to have a pair of goaltenders than can win in the playoffs.

"Nitty's gone in and played extremely well," he said. "It strengthens our belief in him as a team and as a staff, but we're going with Nemo tonight because we believe in him as well. We believe he's the starter. He knows that we haven't waivered in that one bit.

"Do you need two goaltenders to win a series or a Stanley Cup? I believe you do. My experience in Detroit with Dom (Dominik Hasek) and Ozzie (Chris Osgood) has been that and we've already tapped both of them.

"(Nitty is) not a forgotten man. He's approached and dealt with like everyone else on the team. We've talked to him and he understands where he's at and he's completely prepared to go in and do the job.

"He's done a very, very good job. It hasn't been easy on him injury wise. It hasn't been easy on him playing time wise, but he's shown his professionalism in being ready to go when being called."
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