Antti Niemi

Sharks’ Niemi on facing ex-Chicago mates: “It’s a special game”


There’ll be plenty of storylines at play tonight when the top two teams in the Western Conference — the Blackhawks and Sharks — meet at the HP Pavilion in San Jose.

One of the most predominant storylines? Sharks goalie Antti Niemi playing the team he captured a Stanley Cup with in 2010.

“It’s been a while from last time,” Niemi told the Chicago Tribune about facing the ‘Hawks. “It’s still a bunch of the same guys, so of course, it’s a special game.”

It was only three years ago that Niemi was an unheralded Finnish netminder who backstopped Chicago to its first Cup win since 1961.

He went on to sign with the Sharks just months after hoisting Lord Stanley’s mug and become their undisputed No. 1 netminder.

He’s also faced his former team eight times, though it’s been nearly a year since the last meeting:

Nov. 24, 2010 — 5-2 win, stopped 30 of 32 shots
Dec. 11, 2010 — 2-1 win, stopped 28 of 29 shots
Dec. 30, 2010 — 5-3 win, stopped 26 of 29 shots
Mar. 14, 2011 — 6-3 loss, pulled after allowing 4 goals on 18 shots
Nov. 23, 2011 — 1-0 win, stopped 34 of 34 shots (first shutout vs. CHI)
Dec. 11, 2011 — 3-2 OT loss, stopped 31 of 34 shots
Jan. 15, 2012 — 4-3 loss, stopped 36 of 40 shots
Feb. 10, 2012 — 5-3 win, stopped 30 of 33 shots

As you can see, Niemi’s had a lot of success against his old team — but he also tends to face a lot of rubber in those games.

He’s expecting more of the same tonight, especially given how well Chicago’s played to start the year.

“It’s even more fun when we’re both playing well,” he explained. “It’s a bigger challenge for us, plus we’ve had a couple of days with no games.

“We really, really want to win today.”

Sens demote former first-rounder Puempel

Matt Puempel
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Looks like Matt Puempel won’t be making the leap after all.

Puempel, the subject of Ottawa’s “looking to make the leap” profile during our Team of the Day series, has been sent down to AHL Binghamton one day prior to the Sens’ opener against Buffalo.

Puempel, taken by Ottawa in the first round (24th overall) at the ’11 draft, made his big-league debut last season and looked as though he’d stick around — only to suffer a high ankle sprain after 13 games, and miss the rest of the season.

The 22-year-old came into this year’s camp looking to secure a full-time position at the big league level, but was beaten out by Shane Prince for the final forward spot on the roster.

To be fair, contract status probably played a role. Prince would’ve had to clear waivers to get down to Bingo, whereas Puempel didn’t.

A former 30-goal scorer in the American League, Puempel is expected to get another look with Ottawa this season.

Report: Torres won’t appeal 41-game suspension


Sounds like Raffi Torres is accepting his punishment.

Per Sportsnet, Torres won’t appeal his 41-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg.

The report comes just days after the NHL’s Department of Player Safety levied one of the longest disciplinary rulings in league history, citing both the severity of the Silfverberg hit and Torres’ lengthy history of suspensions, fines and warnings.

There was some thought, however, that Torres would try to challenge the ruling.


He does have a history of success in that department. In 2012,Torres successfully appealed his suspension for a headshot on Chicago’s Marian Hossa, and had his punishment reduced from 25 games to 21.

Torres also isn’t considered a “repeat offender” under the current collective bargaining agreement, as his last suspension came in 2013.

Of course, part of that clean record is due to the fact he hasn’t played much. Torres has largely been sidelined by injury for the last two seasons, missing all of last year with knee problems.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman delved further into the repeat offender thing in his latest 30 Thoughts column:

If you read the relevant sections of the CBA, the league takes the position that the repeat offender status is only applicable to fines. Repeaters are fined on a per-game basis, non-repeaters on a per-day basis. (The former is more expensive, because there are fewer games than days in an NHL season.) However, if you go to Section 18.2, among the factors taken into account are, “the status of the offender and, specifically, whether the Player has a history of being subject to Supplementary Discipline for On-Ice Conduct.”

So, in the NHL’s view, a player’s history is relevant, even if longer than 18 months ago.

Should the report prove accurate and Torres doesn’t appeal, he will be eligible to return to action on Jan. 14, when the Sharks take on the Oilers.