DENVER – Antti Niemi will return to the net to face the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday, putting to rest any suspicion that he might have been injured after getting run over by St. Louis’ David Perron on in the second period on Saturday afternoon.
In his worst outing of the season, Niemi allowed three goals, all to Vladimir Sobotka and two of which should have been stopped, and was pulled in the third period of a 4-3 overtime loss to the Blues. Alex Stalock took the loss in relief of Niemi, who is still 10-4-4 with a 1.92 goals-against average and .933 save percentage.
“He’ll respond well. He’s been through it before,” Todd McLellan said, hours before the game with Colorado. “The situation that presented itself wasn’t just the goaltender, it was the feel of the team and turning of momentum trying to change something. Sometimes the goaltender pays the price, they know that going in there. Also, a couple of goals that he’d like to have back.”
The Avalanche will be playing for the first time since giving Chicago its first regulation loss on Friday, 6-2. Colorado lost in Chicago two days before that game, 3-2.
McLellan thought that Colorado was the better team in both games.
“They’ll be entering the game with a real positive vibe,” he said. “It’s our job to take that away from them.”
This is the third and final matchup of the season between the two teams, and San Jose’s only visit to the Pepsi Center. The Sharks won the first two; 4-0 on Jan. 26 and 3-2 in a shootout on Feb. 26.
Colorado will have two forwards in the game tonight that it did not have for the most recent meeting, in Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly. Defenseman Erik Johnson also missed that game.
“Duchene, O’Reilly and Johnson will all make them a much better team,” McLellan said.
“This is a speed test for our team,” McLellan said.
For the Sharks, there will be at least one lineup change. TJ Galiardi wil return after sitting for three of the last four games, but it was not immediately clear who will come out.
* * *
The Sharks got a goal and an assist from Scott Gomez on Saturday, who has three points in his last three games.
Is Gomez doing anything differently lately?
McLellan said: “Playing more on the inside. Using his speed to play on the inside a little bit more. Thinking about shooting first. He’s around the net a little bit more for rebounds; that’s where he scored the one last night. I guess the answer to that would be yes, in a positive way.”
Gomez has seven shots to go along with his two goals and one assist in the last three games.