SAN JOSE Thomas Greiss preparation started all the way back in April.
It was then that the Sharks had a pretty good idea that the goaltender would be a big part of their organization for the 2011-12 season. Prospect Alex Stalock would be recovering from a serious severed nerve injury in his left leg into 2012, while Antero Niittymaki had been battling injury problems even before his hip surgery in September.
When Antti Niemi was unavailable for the first week of the regular season, Greiss took center stage. He won the home opener and started the first three games of the season, and since Niemi returned, has provided very steady goaltending as a backup and in relief.
His numbers are excellent a 2.15 goals against average and .919 save percentage are listed beside his 3-3-0 record, which in itself should be better. The Sharks have scored just six goals in his four starts since that 6-3 opening night win, including getting shutout twice.
The numbers are pretty good, but I would like to have won a couple more games, said a modest Greiss on Wednesday. Ive felt good in practice, had a couple good games, and a couple alright games.
Now that Niemi has returned and is healthy, Greiss has to adjust to being the backup again. He beat the New York Islanders on Oct. 29, came on in relief of Niemi on Nov. 3 against Pittsburgh to help the team come from behind and win, and took the 3-0 loss to Phoenix on Saturday.
McLellan specifically wanted him to get back in against the Coyotes, as the team had a four-day break that ends with Thursdays game against the Red Wings.
I think hes like any goaltender he plays better when he gets to play more, said McLellan. Off the bat, when he knew he was playing every night, he was very sharp. Now, hes got to adjust his game a little bit and remain sharp in practices so when he does get the call, whenever it might be, hes at the top of his game.
At some point this season, the Sharks front office will have a decision to make. Antero Nittymaki, although hes not skating with the team yet, has been seen on the ice in full gear and pads. Hes not moving around a whole lot, but its a reminder that the Sharks still have a pretty good veteran netminder on their roster.
Greiss, who comes off as a pretty laid-back guy by nature, insists hes not thinking about that yet.
Well just see what happens. I dont really worry about it right now, he said. Well see what happens then. Well take it day-by-day and see how it turns out.
McLellan will also wait and cross that bridge when it comes.
Niitty is down the road. We havent even started to talk about weeks or months or anything like that, he said. We just know that hes down the road. Have I given any thought to it? No, no thought at all.