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Antti Niemi’s status for Sharks’ season opener is unclear

Antti Niemi; Alex Burrows

San Jose Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi, of Finland, makes a save on Vancouver Canucks’ Alex Burrows during the second period of Game 5 of NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Western Conference finals Tuesday, May 24, 2011, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)


The San Jose Sharks made a reasonable choice in committing to goalie Antti Niemi, although the price tag of his contract caused also-reasonable sticker shock.

Either way, that deal makes him the odds-on favorite to be their No.1 goalie for the foreseeable future, but a different Finnish netminder might start during the team’s season opener. Joseph D’Hippolito of The Mercury News reports that Sharks head coach Todd McLellan admitted that Niemi might not be ready for the team’s regular season opener on Oct. 8.

Niemi had a cyst removed from “an undisclosed body part” sometime during the summer. Although he recently resumed skating, it’s not clear if he’ll be ready to return for action in time for that first game against the Phoenix Coyotes.

That could open the door for his backup (and fellow Finn) Antero Niittymaki - or even demoted Sharks backup Thomas Greiss - to play in the team’s first meaningful contest of 2011-12. Either way, the report indicates that the Sharks aren’t worried about Niemi’s big picture health, with McLellan claiming that Niemi is “feeling better every day.”

(Update: with Nittymaki also being injured, it sounds like Greiss might be the guy who benefits from at least a brief run at the top.)

Still, a setback could be a little troublesome for the Sharks, who seem primed for another push for that elusive run to the Stanley Cup finals. We’ll let you know if the team provides more information about Niemi’s progress in the next week or two.

(H/T to Rotoworld.)