EDMONTON – After Thursday’s 2-1 comeback win over Vancouver, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan talked about forwards John McCarthy and James Sheppard earning more responsibility as the game went along.
The flip side of that is it cut into the playing time of Matt Nieto and Marty Havlat. That pair began on a line with center Joe Pavelski, but by the end of the first period was with typical fourth line center Andrew Desjardins.
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McLellan gave his assessment of Nieto and Havlat shortly before Friday’s game against the Oilers. Nieto is scoreless in his last five games, while Havlat has failed to get on the scoresheet in six of his seven appearances.
“They are working their way. You’re never stationary. You’re either working your way up or you’re working your way down, and they’re working their way right now,” McLellan said.
“For Marty, he’s now played seven games. He’s through his so-called exhibition season, as we mentioned earlier. We’ve talked a lot about being patient with him and letting him play his way into shape, and his timing, and all that stuff. We’ve done that. Now, it’s about results.
“With Matt Nieto, different story for him a little bit. He’s a smaller player that’s played through the early part of the NHL, and now it’s become even more of a man’s game. I’m sure fatigue sets in a little bit, and the mental part of being a young player in the league also is a strain on him. Each of them has different challenges like anybody else, but we’ve got to win games and they have to produce.”
[REWIND: Sharks will take ugly win over Canucks]
It was pointed out to McLellan by another reporter that Havlat, who had offseason pelvic surgery delaying his season debut, did not have a single notch in any category in 11 minutes and 47 seconds of ice time. No shots on net, no attempted shots, no hits, no blocked shots, no giveaways or takeaways.
How do you go through a game and have nothing?
“I don’t know. He’s in the room there if you want to pull him out and ask him. Pretty simple. That’s noticeable.”
Havlat was requested for an interview, but it was too close to the team’s pregame meeting.
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Antti Niemi ended a personal five-game winless streak with his best game in more than two weeks on Thursday in Vancouver. He made 34 saves.
“I felt good,” Niemi said. “I think I maybe had a couple bounces which in the other previous games might have been in the net, and yesterday they weren’t. Of course, we played hard in our own zone, too. I think it’s everything.”
“It was a big game for us, and me especially."
Alex Stalock, scheduled to start against the Oilers on Friday night, has been very good in three games. Niemi was asked if he subscribes to the notion that a backup goalie playing well can push the starter to stay sharp.
“He’s played well, but I’m just trying to play well whenever I’m in the net. I’ve just got to focus on myself,” Niemi said.
“It’s hard to say. I don’t know. It can be, maybe.”