Antero Niittymaki

Sharks goalie woes: Antero Niittymaki out 12 weeks after lower body surgery

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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.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
AP
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.