Programming note: Blue Jackets-Sharks coverage gets underway at 7 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
SAN JOSE -- For the first time this season, a Sharks goaltender will be making back-to-back starts.
Antti Niemi, who was in net for the Sharks’ 5-3 loss in Boston on Tuesday, will be between the pipes again when San Jose plays just its second home game of the year against Columbus.
Niemi is 3-1-0 with a 2.70 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in four games.
"I don't what's the big plan, so you've got to be ready every day,” Niemi said after the morning skate. “You’ve got to be ready for anything. Not really a surprise. You knew at some point someone was going to play back-to-back games, of course. You're not going to play 82 games back and forth."
McLellan succinctly explained the decision.
“We look at our schedule, what’s ahead of us, and we plan it from there,” he said.
Giving Niemi his first home game of the year also means that the Sharks can play Alex Stalock against the lowly Buffalo Sabres on Saturday afternoon, and decide from there who to use in a divisional matchup with Anaheim on Sunday night.
Stalock, whenever his next start occurs, will be trying to bounce back from a difficult outing against the Rangers last Sunday when his misplays with the puck led to multiple New York goals in a 4-0 loss.
“Absolutely,” said Logan Couture, when asked if he expects Stalock to bounce back. “It’s one game. No one plays every single game in their career perfectly. I’ve had many bad games, and he’ll be fine.”
The biggest hurdle the Sharks may have to clear against Columbus is making sure they have enough gas in their tanks to keep up. The first home game after a long road trip, which included a cross-country flight home on Tuesday night from New England, can often be difficult.
Combine that with the fact that Columbus hasn’t played since last Saturday, and has been waiting and practicing in San Jose since Monday.
“Any time you come back from a long road trip you want to play well at home,” Couture said. “We know we don’t play many home games to start the season but we want to win the few ones we have. We have to come out with a good effort tonight.”
Niemi said: "I think we'll get some energy playing the second time at home this season. It's going to be big for us."
McLellan doesn’t expect energy to be an issue so early in the season. The Sharks are home just three times in the month of October, and only five times in their first 16 games.
“We’re talking about October, we’re not talking about March,” said the coach. “We should be able to find a way to get some energy going, playing in front of our fans.”
Quick starts haven't been a problem for the Sharks, who have scored first in five of seven games and are holding an 8-1 goal advantage in the first period. Conversely, seven of Columbus' 15 goals have come in the second period.
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The Sharks made a couple line changes from Tuesday. The third line will likely be James Sheppard centering Tomas Hertl and Eriah Hayes, while Andrew Desjardins will skate with Adam Burish and Tye McGinn on the fourth line.
John Scott, Chris Tierney and Mirco Mueller are the likely healthy scratches.
McLellan also suggested that Mueller, who struggled in New York on Sunday, will not return to his junior club despite the Sharks having the option to do so before the 19-year-old plays 10 games.
“Mirco’s not going anywhere,” McLellan said.