Sharks

Greiss not thinking about Niittymaki's return

590138.jpg

Greiss not thinking about Niittymaki's return

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.

Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are

sharks-us.jpg
USATSI

Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are

The difference between a 2-3-0 start and a 1-4-0 start is bigger than two standings points.

The former is far from ideal, but if you squint hard enough, there's enough wiggle room to improve. There's still time with the latter, too, but the margin for error is much thinner moving forward.

The Sharks experienced that difference firsthand after Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. It's not an ideal record, but they’ve managed to salvage a poor start. 

There are still some flaws, to be sure. The power play isn't just the Kevin Labanc show after the top unit scored all three power play goals Tuesday, but is still carrying a disproportionate offensive load. The penalty kill’s scoreless streak came to an end, but they were called into action six times.

Despite all that, Tuesday's win was San Jose’s best effort this season. Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Joe Thornton all had multi-point games for the first time this year. Martin Jones had another strong game, and appears to have shaken off his slow start.

In short, San Jose’s game is headed in the right direction. It needs to be, with a five-game road trip beginning on Friday. 

Now comes the hard part.

It's on the road where we’ll get our best sense of who this team really is. Peter DeBoer won’t have the benefit of last change, and won't be able to dictate matchups. 

Under these circumstances, we’ll begin to really see if Joakim Ryan is ready for a top-four role, whether Kevin Labanc is a viable first-line winger, and how the rest of the young reinforcements stack up. They will have less time off, too, as all but one game occurs after one day (or less) of rest and travel. That missed practice time isn't ideal for any team, let alone one still trying to work out the kinks.

Fortunately, the competition is forgiving, at least on paper. Other than the Devils, none of the Sharks’ four other road trip opponents have winning records as of this writing. The topsy turvy nature of the standings, though, show how little “on paper” means this early in the season.

We’ll know a lot more about who these San Jose Sharks are by the time their road trip ends. Their record still won't tell the whole story, but by then, they'll have played about an eighth of the season. 

And by then, we’ll have a much better idea of how good this team really is.

Sharks' offense comes alive, leads charge in win over Canadiens

sharks-canadiens-win-ap.jpg
AP

Sharks' offense comes alive, leads charge in win over Canadiens

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE — Logan Couture credited a teammate for scoring his second goal. He took credit for the first one.

Couture scored a pair of goals and the San Jose Sharks extended their dominance of the Montreal Canadiens with a 5-2 victory on Tuesday night.

Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl also scored for the Sharks, who have won the past 11 home games against the Canadiens, a streak that dates to Nov. 23, 1999.

On a power play late in the third period, rookie Tim Heed took a shot off a face-off that bounced free in front of the net. Pavelski couldn't get his stick on it but managed to kick it across the net for Couture, who found a huge opening.

"That was pretty special," Couture said. "I don't know if he knew I was there but he kept his balance and kicked it over."

Couture opened the scoring 3:30 into the first period, grabbing a rebound off the back board, skating across the front of the net to get Price to commit and then firing into an open net.

Jonathan Drouin and Shea Weber scored for the Canadiens, who are winless since an opening night victory at the Buffalo Sabres.

"It's a very poor start from our team, from myself, from a lot of individuals," Canadiens' Max Pacioretty said. "It's a good time to look in the mirror and see what we're made of because a lot of people are probably doubting this team right now."

Martin Jones stopped 28 of 30 shots for the Sharks, who finish their season-opening homestand with a 2-3 record.

"The biggest thing is finding that energy for the whole game," Jones said. "We started OK and then we got better as the night went on."

Carey Price, who stopped 31 of 35 shots, fell to 2-7-1 in 10 games against the Sharks.

The Canadiens responded 36 seconds later when Drouin picked up a pass from Artturi Lehkonen close in and fired it over Jones' left shoulder and into the net.

Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead for good when he redirected Kevin Labanc's shot just under a minute into the second period. The shot hit Weber's left shin pad and bounced into the net.

"There were a lot of good things out there," Pavelski said. "We didn't have the homestand we wanted but we can leave on a positive note to take on the road."

Hertl padded the lead midway through the second on a power play. Standing on the right side of the net, he was trying to control a pass from Joe Thornton but the puck fluttered off his stick and got behind Price.

"I'll take it any way I can get it," Hertl said. "There are times I've had great shots that just bounced off the post."

Weber's power-play goal two minutes later kicked off Jones' skates for the score.

The Sharks needed five seconds to score on a power play late in the second period. Tim Heed shot on goal and it bounced off Pavelski's skate. Couture picked it up and found a huge opening.

NOTES: After allowing three power play goals over their first five penalty kills, the Sharks killed off 14 straight until Weber scored in the second period. ... Couture recorded his 24th career multi-goal game. ... Sharks D Tim Heed recorded his first NHL point with an assist on Couture's power-play goal. ... Brendan Gallagher needs one assist for 100 with the Canadiens.

UP NEXT:

Canadiens: plays at the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday in their second back-to-back of the season.

Sharks: open a five-game road trip on the east coast with a game at the New Jersey Devils on Friday.