VANCOUVER – Martin Jones has had a heavy workload.
In his first season as a number one goaltender, Jones ranks third in the league in minutes. Only Cory Schneider and Pekka Rinne have played more, while Corey Crawford, Henrik Lundquist and Braden Holtby are right behind him.
That’s pretty good company, but the Sharks have no idea if Jones will be the kind of goalie that wears down late in the season, like his predecessor Antti Niemi had a tendency to do (and is repeating in his first season in Dallas).
Enter James Reimer, who joined the Sharks for their final 20. The 27-year-old finally met up with his new teammates on Thursday morning at Rogers Arena after it took some time for immigration to get worked out.
Coach Pete DeBoer doesn’t have a set number for how many games he’d like Reimer to play, but the goalie will undoubtedly get in shortly.
“We were at the point where we were putting an awful lot on Jonesy’s plate," DeBoer said. "We want to make sure going into the playoffs that he wasn’t worn out, and that we would have a legitimate guy there that could come in and win games and had been an experienced starter in the league before.”
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Reimer’s sociable, pleasant personality shined through his first in-person media session as a Shark in Vancouver on Thursday morning. He didn’t express any frustration over the drawn out immigration process, and despite being a starter in Toronto for long stretches of his five-plus seasons there, he seems to have no problem assuming the backup role ahead of a summer in which he’s set to be an unrestricted free agent.
“Whatever I’m asked to do,” said Reimer, who is 11-12-7 with a 2.49 GAA and .918 SP this season. “Obviously I think Jones has played real well, and he’s a heck of a goalie. He’s done a great job so far. I’m just here to [play] however many games they want me to play. I’m going to do my best [to] tally up as many points as we can.”
The Sharks have essentially already clinched a playoff spot, as they have a 16-point lead on the Canucks and Coyotes.
Jones is in a rhythm, too, giving the Sharks solid, sometimes spectacular goaltending on a nightly basis. He's tied for third in the NHL with 32 wins. Considering the team is still pushing for the Pacific Division crown, trailing the Kings and Ducks by four points, it could be a little tough for him to take a few nights off the way he’s been playing lately.
He understands the situation, though.
“I think everything we do now is to prepare for playoffs the best we can,” said Jones, after beating the Canucks against on Thursday night. “Obviously we want to make sure our game is in good shape coming down the stretch here.”
“It’s [not a tough decision] in that I know we can’t wear this guy out,” DeBoer said. “He’s played a lot of hockey for us.”
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Reimer’s timing is fortunate in that the most difficult portions of the Sharks’ schedule are over. The team has four more consecutive games against non-playoff opponents, including Vancouver again on Saturday and a back-to-back against lowly Calgary and Edmonton early next week. Reimer is sure to get at least one if not two of those games after a few practices with the Sharks.
He could offer the 26-year-old Jones some advice ahead of the postseason, too. Unlike Jones, Reimer has experience as a playoff starter when the Maple Leafs lost in the first round to Boston in 2013. In an epic Game 7, the Bruins erased a 4-1 third period deficit in final few minutes and won in overtime to steal a series victory away from Toronto.
What did he learn?
“Just how to handle some of the pressure, and different ups and downs,” Reimer said. “You just gain experience. I don’t know if it’s too much tangible stuff, more just the intangible things. The mental approach, and stuff like that.”
If they need him, he’ll be there to jump in, too.
“Obviously in Toronto it wasn’t looking good for playoffs. … To be here with this group to get that chance to maybe make a run at it, it’s exciting.”