Sharks

Should Niemi start every game?

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Should Niemi start every game?

PHOENIX Sharks goalie Antti Niemi will make his sixth straight start in net on Saturday night against the Coyotes, and there should be many more to come for the 28-year-old Finland native.

Its become clear in Niemis two seasons with the Sharks and his final year with Chicago, which ended with a Stanley Cup in 2010 that Niemi plays better the more often hes in the crease. And the Sharks certainly need him at his best as they battle to make it into the postseason tournament.

Although his numbers arent glowing, as hes just 6-10-3 with a 2.73 goals-against average and .904 save percentage in his last 20 starts, Niemi has been better of late. Hes not the reason the Sharks have lost four of their last five games, all started by Niemi, who has a 1.76 GAA and .935 SP over that span including a shutout of the Philadelphia Flyers in the Sharks last win on Feb. 28.
RELATED: Antti Niemi stats splits game logs

It wouldnt be shocking to see him play both ends of the back-to-back in Edmonton on Monday and Calgary Tuesday. And maybe even the remaining 15 games after the tilt with the Coyotes.

I think weve proven that point again. In the phase where we had that real long travel trip and had the three back-to-backs, and he didnt play as often," Todd McLellan said. "It was probably his weakest point during the season."

The head coach is referring to Niemis struggles on the teams nine-game road trip in late February, which featured three separate back-to-backs. Niemi was pulled in the first period in two of the final three games of that trip, in which San Jose stumbled to a 2-6-1 record. Backup Thomas Greiss started in two of the first four of those games, spelling Niemi after the goaltender played the night before.

Niemi started 34 consecutive games from Jan. 15 to April 4 last year, going 25-4-4 with a 2.05 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage.

The year he helped the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup, Niemi played in each of the last 13 games in the regular season, starting 12 of them. He finished off the year with a 6-0-1 mark in his final seven starts, before starting each of the Blackhawks 22 playoff games during their championship run.

When this guy plays a lot, he plays better. We could play him 82 games and hed probably be fine," McLellan said. "But, he does need a rest."

Does he?

Sharks exorcise MSG demons, take down Rangers

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Sharks exorcise MSG demons, take down Rangers

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Logan Couture had a goal and an assist, Martin Jones stopped xx shots and the San Jose Sharks beat the struggling New York Rangers 4-1 on Monday night.

Tim Heed, Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson also scored to help the Sharks win for the third time in four games. Jones got his fourth straight win after losing his first two starts.

Mika Zibanejad scored and Henrik Lundqvist finished with 20 saves for the Rangers, who fell to 2-6-2 on the season. New York finished 0 for 6 on the power play and is 3 for 25 over the last six games.

With the Sharks leading 3-0 after two periods, Couture took the puck away from Lundqvist behind the goal and sent it to Karlsson, who put it in for his second of the season at 2:51 of the third. Couture got his 200th career assist on the play.

San Jose turned the puck over in its defensive zone and Zibanejad snapped a shot into the top right corner to spoil Jones' shutout bid at 4:23 of the final period.

Donskoi increased the Sharks' lead to 3-0 with 38 seconds left in the second as he skated into the right circle and beat Lundqvist glove-side inside the right post.

The Rangers controlled the play for most of the first period while outshooting the Sharks 16-8, but trailed 2-0 after 20 minutes.

Couture, who had his second career hat trick in a loss at the New York Islanders on Saturday night, got San Jose on the scoreboard 1:56 into the game. With Jones pulled for an extra skater on a delayed penalty, Brent Burns sent pass from the right circle up top to Couture, who fired a slap shot from straightaway past Lundqvist.

Jones had two nice saves on back-to-back attempts in close by Pavel Buchnevich with a little more than nine minutes left in the first.

Heed doubled the Sharks' lead with 7:15 left as he brought the puck up the right side and sent a bad-angle shot from near the goal line along the boards. The puck trickled through Lundqvist's pads for the 26-year-old's first career goal in his seventh NHL game.

The Rangers had a two-man advantage for 25 seconds late in the opening period, but Jones stoppedZibanejad's shot from top of the left circle, and Rick Nash missed with an attempt in close.

NOTES: Couture has six goals and three assists in his last four games. ... The Sharks are 30 for 31 on the penalty kill in seven games since giving up three power-play goals in the season- opener against Philadelphia. ... The teams conclude the season series Jan. 25 at San Jose. ... Rangers D Kevin Shattenkirk played in his 500th career regular season game. ... New York F Rick Nash played in his 999th game. ... D Marc Staal played in his 699th game — all with the Rangers — and passed Mark Messier and Steve Vickers for sole possession of 12th place on the franchise list. ... New York has given up 15 goals in the first period this season.

UP NEXT

Sharks: At Boston on Thursday night in the fifth of a six-game trip that concludes at Buffalo on Saturday.

Rangers: Host Arizona on Thursday night in the finale of a season-high six-game homestand.

The world’s most famous arena is a house of horrors for Sharks

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The world’s most famous arena is a house of horrors for Sharks

Whenever the NHL's schedule comes out, a trip to Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers is usually a highlight. A matchup against one of the league's biggest teams, in the country's biggest city, in a historic venue? That's a date worth circling.

If the San Jose Sharks circle it, it’s for entirely different reasons.

Throughout the entirety of the franchise’s 26-season existence, the Garden has been anything but welcoming. The Sharks have traveled to the world’s most famous arena 17 times, and have only skated off with a win four times. They didn’t even win a game there until October 19, 1999, in San Jose’s eighth appearance in the building.

Madison Square Garden has been “King” Henrik Lundqvist’s castle against the Sharks. The king in the castle is also the moat surrounding it: In four career appearances against San Jose at home, Lundqvist has only allowed four goals.

The Sharks haven’t been able to solve his squires, either, losing games to two of his most recent back-ups: Martin Biron, now on television, and Antti Raanta, now in Arizona. Lundqvist will likely start on Monday night, but if he doesn’t, this is probably the one instance where San Jose wouldn’t want to face Ondrej Pavelec, even though he’s never managed to eclipse a .920 save percentage in a season.

That’s because the team’s most recent appearances at the Garden have been among their worst. The Sharks have been shut out twice in their last four visits to Manhattan, and have only scored five goals over that span. They did manage to win one game, thanks to a Lundqvist-like shutout from then-goaltender Antti Niemi in 2014.  

Martin Jones, on the other hand, has been decidedly unlike Lundqvist. He’s allowed nine goals on 55 shots in two road starts against the original six franchise, good for an .837 save percentage. The skaters in front of him exactly helped Jones, either. The Sharks have played from behind in their last two trips to Madison Square Garden, failing to score first and trailing after the first two periods both times.

Those recent struggles are especially strange, given Peter DeBoer’s relative success in the building. He won big road games against the Rangers before assuming his role behind the Sharks’ bench, most notably two in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, when DeBoer’s Devils upset the top-seeded Rangers. Once you coach this team in that arena, though, all bets are off.

Somehow, in a month known for horror, there may be nothing scarier than the thought of the Sharks playing in Madison Square Garden.