Programming note: Sharks-Senators coverage gets underway Sunday at 1:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
MONTREAL – One Sharks rookie is surging, while another is starting to show some wear.
Matt Nieto was the most noticeable player on the ice in the Sharks’ 2-0 win over the Canadiens on Saturday night, despite not getting on the scoresheet. Nieto had a game-high six shots on net, and according to head coach Todd McLellan, his play in the second period helped gain momentum for the Sharks.
“One of his best games. It was a good night for him, because it was a skating night. That he can do,” McLellan said.
“I thought he really got us going in the second period when he drove wide and created a scoring chance, and kind of got some momentum going for us, and we began to attack a little bit more.”
The head coach is referring to Nieto drawing a hooking penalty on David Desharnais, when Nieto sped through the offensive zone and drew the penalty leading to Logan Couture’s goal to make it 1-0.
“I felt pretty good,” the 20-year-old Nieto said. “I felt comfortable, I was making plays, my linemates were supporting me, so I thought I had a pretty good night.”
Meanwhile, Tomas Hertl is taking a ride on the struggle bus. Hertl has just one assist in his last five games, and hasn’t scored a goal since Oct. 12 vs. Ottawa. The 19-year-old has looked tired at times, as he adapts to the hectic NHL schedule.
Against Montreal on Saturday, Hertl played just 10 minutes and 19 seconds, a season low. He took some shifts on the fourth line early in the game, switching places with John McCarthy, and didn’t see the ice at all in the second half of the third period.
McLellan opted to put Joe Thornton between James Sheppard and John McCarthy to close out the game, while Hertl, Freddie Hamilton and Andrew Desjardins sat.
“Just shifted some people around,” McLellan said. “When we got to two [goals], we didn’t want to play safe, but there’s a pair of players (McCarthy and Sheppard) I moved around just because I thought they were a little more reliable defensively and were having excellent games. That’s the only reason for it.”
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Alex Stalock is set to make his first NHL start against the Senators on Sunday, the last NHL backup to see some action, as Antti Niemi has played every minute of all 11 games.
Niemi leads the league with nine wins, and is one of two goalies with multiple shutouts. His 1.53 goals-against average is third in the league among goalies that have played at least five games.
“When you’re confident and you can be patient and just wait for the puck to hit you, it gives you more time to react,” Niemi said after the Montreal win. “I’m feeling like that right now.”
Expect Niemi to return to the net on Wednesday in Los Angeles, as the Sharks conclude their road swing.