SAN JOSE -- Antti Niemi has started 15 of the Sharks’ 16 games, and is second in the NHL in minutes played.
He started the season with a 9-1-1 record, 1.53 goals-against average and .933 save percentage, but in his last four games, he's 0-1-3 with a 4.09 GAA and .842 SP.
He’s also allowed some goals that he was routinely stopping earlier in the year, as the Sharks saw their losing streak stretched to four games on Thursday night, when Niemi was pulled for the first time in a 4-2 defeat that was aided by defensive zone sloppiness.
Some might suggest he’s overworked, which I relayed to Todd McLellan on Friday. The head coach strongly disagreed.
“Nope. Nope. Not at all,” McLellan said. “The interesting part about Nemo is the most rest he’s had, has been in the last 10 days, and he hasn’t been as sharp. As soon as Alex [Stalock] played (on Oct. 27 in Ottawa), Nemo had a couple days off, [we] come back into LA, not as sharp. We haven’t been playing every second day, so I think the exact opposite of what you’re suggesting. Exact opposite.”
Niemi is a workhorse. That’s not just true when it comes to games, but practices. Ironically, as McLellan was answering the question about his goaltender, Niemi was just coming off of the ice after more than 90 minutes of practice time. He routinely is among the last players off, and that includes this week, as the Sharks hit a less intense stretch of their schedule in which they played two games in seven days.
“He’s working on his game,” McLellan said. “All of a sudden, he’s starting to not be as involved as he normally is. He’s not tired. I can tell you that.”