SAN JOSE – Antti Niemi will start for the second time in three preseason games on Tuesday night when the Sharks host the Vancouver Canucks, head coach Todd McLellan revealed on Monday.
On Friday, Niemi made 29 saves on 32 shots in an overtime loss to Anaheim.
While Niemi is undisputed number one, the battle to be his backup on opening night is ongoing. Alex Stalock and Harri Sateri remain in camp and both will see more playing time in the Sharks’ final two preseason games this weekend.
“We’ll have two games left, and we want to make sure Antti is ready to play, but we also have to make a decision on one of the other two,” McLellan said.
How difficult will that decision be?
“It’s a tough decision. They’ve both done admirable jobs,” McLellan said. “Haven’t seen a lot of separation between the two of them. In fairness to Alex, his game was basically a week ago now, so it seems like a long time. We’ll evaluate in practice and when they get to chance to play again, we’ll see tougher lineups over the next three games, as well. Teams are cutting down, we’ll see more veterans in, and get a better idea.”
Stalock made 14 saves in a 3-2 win over Vancouver on Sept. 16 in the Sharks’ preseason opener, while Sateri recorded a 3-2 win of his own on Saturday with 24 saves.
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Jason Demers knows it’s an important year for him, after he’s failed to stay healthy or keep his place in the lineup the last two seasons. He scored a power play goal on Saturday, and was moving the puck well in more than 23 minutes of ice time.
“I came in with the mentality just I’m trying to earn a spot again,” said Demers, who has been paired with Scott Hannan throughout camp. “That’s the way I’m looking at it this preseason, and all year. It’s just about making the right plays, playing my game, and doing the right things out there.”
McLellan is hopeful that Demers can play a defensively responsible game to go with his strong skating and puck-moving skills.
“He’s effective when he’s moving pucks and creating offense, and I really believe he can do that. There’s no question right there. But, it’s at what cost? What’s the risk/reward level for Jason?
“If he’s solid defensively and moving pucks out of his zone, making our team play fast, then he’s a real good asset.”
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Adam Burish remained off of the ice on Monday, but general manager Doug Wilson expects him to return shortly. Burish is battling some “bumps and bruises,” and apparently it’s nothing serious.
Brad Stuart continued to work through his lower body injury, taking part in some practice drills and also skating on his own.
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The Sharks will wear their white sweaters at home on Tuesday night, in order for fans to get a chance to see the new roadies in person. The game will be televised on the NHL Network.
San Jose’s final two preseason games in Phoenix on Friday and Anaheim on Saturday will be broadcast on local radio.
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The Sharks reduced their roster by two more players on Monday, sending defenseman Rob Davison and Adam Comrie to AHL Worcester.
Thirty-two players remain, including injured forwards Raffi Torres and Marty Havlat.
[RELATED: Torres could miss 3-4 months with ACL injury]