We knew that San Jose Sharks backup goaltender Antero Niittymaki wouldn’t be ready for opening night. He’ll be lucky if he’s ready by Christmas. We also knew that starting netminder Antti Niemi was questionable for opening night after recently having a cyst removed from his leg. Reports out of San Jose state that Niemi is close to being ready for game action, but he won’t be ready for the Sharks first game against the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night.
Enter Thomas Greiss. You may remember Greiss from the 16 games he played while backing-up Evgeni Nabokov in San Jose during the 2009-10 season. After the Sharks completely overhauled their goaltending situations last offseason, Greiss found himself in the Swedish Elite League for a season before returning to the San Jose organization this year. Greiss talked about the possibility of playing against Phoenix on Saturday:
“It would be great. It would be the first home opener for me, so it would be fun.”
“I’ll be happy with whatever ice time I get, will try and do my best and prove myself.”
Since Greiss’s comments to the media, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan has confirmed that the German born netminder will get the start on opening night in San Jose. After his play in the preseason, he’s certainly earned the chance to show what he can do. He posted a 4-1-0 record with a 1.71 goals against average. McLellan explained that not only is Greiss starting to believe that he belongs, but his teammates are believing it as well:
“I think he feels like he belongs here and expects to be here. His teammates are more comfortable with him. His teammates have been around him more and know what to expect from him in certain situations. Because of circumstances, it wasn’t a pleasant season for him (last year). But now he’s back in the NHL, starting on Opening Night and it’s another life for him.”
For the Sharks to get where they want to go this season, they’re going to need Greiss to be an adequate backup. There’s a very good chance that Niemi will only miss a single start because the Sharks won’t play their second game until next Friday in Anaheim. But McLellan wants to go with a balanced goaltending rotation at the beginning of the season to help preserve Niemi for the end of the season. If the Sharks coaching staff wants to go with a rotation at the beginning of the season and Niittymaki isn’t set to return until December, Greiss will be appear in more games than your average third-stringer.
There’s not that much pressure on Greiss though. The Sharks are only challenging for another Pacific Division crown, another spot in the Western Conference final, and perhaps more this season. It’s Niemi’s job for the long-haul, but games in October and November count just as much as those in February and March. Keep that in mind when the Sharks are battling for home ice advantage later in the year.
Brandon Dubinsky has been suspended one game for his cross-check to the back of Sidney Crosby‘s neck.
The incident took place during the second period of Friday’s game.
Crosby did head to the locker room after the play, but he was able to return.
When deciding on the number of games to give Dubinsky, here’s what the NHL took into account:
- Dubinsky delivered a clear cross-check.
- Dubinsky has been fined before, but never suspended.
- Crosby wasn’t seriously injured on the play.
“In this case, while Dubinsky’s cross-check isn’t overly violent or forceful, it is an intentional strike to an opponent’s head using his stick,” the NHL said in their explanation of the play. “This is not a case where the head contact was caused by a sudden movement by Crosby or by a stick riding up a player’s back or shoulders and making subsequent contact with the head.”
Click on the video at the top of the page to watch the NHL’s full explanation.
The Blue Jackets take on the Blues in St. Louis tonight.
The Edmonton Oilers activated defenseman Justin Schultz off injured reserve and assigned Griffin Reinhart to the minors.
Schultz has missed the last 14 games because of a back injury, but he’ll suit up in Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The 25-year-old has one assist and a minus-6 rating in nine games in ’15-16.
Here’s his interview with Oilers TV from earlier today:
Reinhart was acquired in an off-season trade with the New York Islanders this summer.
The former fourth overall pick has no points and a minus-1 rating in 12 games with the Oilers.
James Reimer (lower body) won’t be available to play in Saturday’s game against Washington.
Reimer was injured during a team practice earlier this week and although the injury didn’t appear to be serious, it will prevent him from suiting up in at least one game.
The Leafs originally thought that the 27-year-old would be good to go for this tilt, but head coach Mike Babcock said Reimer didn’t feel good enough to play.
Reimer’s emerged as the go-to-guy for the Maple Leafs this season and for good reason.
He has 7-3-4 record with a 2.07 goals-against-average and a .934 save percentage in 15 games.
Another reason the Leafs have been counting on him so much is because Jonathan Bernier‘s been awful.
Bernier will get another opportunity to prove himself on Saturday night, but he faces a stiff test against Alex Ovechkin and company.
The 27-year-old has an 0-7-1 record with a 3.17 goals-against-average and a .895 save percentage in ’15-16.
In a corresponding move, the Leafs sent defenseman Scott Harrington to the minors and recalled goalie Garret Sparks.
Sparks was Toronto’s seventh round pick in 2011.
The 22-year-old has an 8-2-1 record with the Toronto Marlies this season.
The Rangers are getting ready for their second straight matinee game on Saturday, but head coach Alain Vigneault wasn’t done addressing yesterday’s loss to the Bruins.
After Friday’s game, Bruins coach Claude Julien wasn’t pleased with Henrik Lundqvist‘s “acting” that led to a goalie interference penalty being called on forward Brad Marchand (above) and he let everyone know it in his postgame press conference.
On Saturday, it was Alain Vigneault’s turn to lash out.
“Well, (the Rangers public relations staff) filled me in a little bit on what was said after the game,” Vigneault said via the New York Daily News. “I mean it’s a little disappointing. Obviously everybody saw the knee to the head. The comments on Hank were very inappropriate. The way Hank conducts himself, on the ice, away from the rink, off the ice, the example that he sets. Who would you rather have as a son, Henrik Lundqvist or Brad Marchand? For him to say things like that about Hank, totally wrong, and probably Claude is getting a little older and needs to check his eyesight.”
The Rangers will take on the Flyers at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.