After news earlier today about how Sharks starting goalie Antti Niemi’s start of the season could be in doubt, the last thing the Sharks wanted to hear about were more goaltending worries. Sadly for them that’s exactly what they’ve got.
Backup goalie Antero Niittymaki underwent a procedure for a lower body injury that will keep him out of action for the next 12 weeks. With Niemi hurting and Niittymaki out of action for the next three months, Thomas Greiss becomes the man to keep a watchful eye on in goal for the Sharks.
Greiss spent last season in the Swedish Elite League playing for Brynas. After two years with the San Jose Sharks previously, Greiss was allowed to play in Sweden so he could both keep his game sharp and not have to deal with the rigors of the AHL. Greiss had a 2.92 goals against average and a .901 save percentage for Brynas last year.
With Greiss back in North America this season, the chance to start the year as the Sharks backup goalie and part-time starter is there for the taking. He’d best take care of the opportunity afforded to him because once Nittymaki is healthy and ready to go, he’s likely headed for the bench or for the AHL once again.
Last season in San Jose, Niittymaki went 12-7-3 with a 2.72 goals against average and a below-average .896 save percentage. Niemi and Niittymaki split starts at the beginning of last season, but Niemi took hold of the starting job and did not relinquish it the rest of the season at around the midway point of the schedule. With the Sharks facing the possibility of being without both goalies at the start of the season, the pressure builds for the Sharks defense to get tougher and for Greiss to play at the best of his ability.
If the Sharks are to be a championship contender this year, they’ll have to be able to weather this storm and hope it doesn’t sink their chances the rest of the way. If Greiss can’t pick the team up in a backup role, it could be up to Alex Stalock to do the job and that all depends on how he’s doing in his injury recovery.