GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 15: Goaltender Antti Niemi #31 of the San Jose Sharks makes a save on the shot from Shane Doan #19 of the Phoenix Coyotes during the second period of the NHL game at Arena on April 15, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona. The Sharks defeated the Coyotes 4-0. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

NHL on NBCSN: Sharks aim for home ice, battle Coyotes


NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Phoenix Coyotes host the San Jose Sharks at Arena at 10:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

San Jose guaranteed its playoff spot by beating the Dallas Stars yesterday, but the squad can’t take a break yet.

“There’s a sense of relief, but it can’t be a sense of relaxation,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan told CSN Bay Area. “When we came in, we immediately looked at what happened tonight around the league, and there’s still a chance for home ice. That would be a nice thing to have.”

The Sharks are now tied with the Los Angeles Kings in points in the battle for the fourth seed in the Western Conference. Both teams have two games left, but the Kings have an insurmountable lead in ROW (wins excluding shootout victories), so the tie will go to Los Angeles.

It’s worth adding that the Sharks and Kings will end their respective regular season schedules by facing each other on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

San Jose has been a dominating 17-2-5 at home, but 8-12-2 on the road, so the importance of securing the fourth seed shouldn’t be dismissed.

That being said, the Sharks will have their work cut out for them tonight in what will be their third game in just four days.

“It’s going to be tough with back-to-backs and three [games] in four [nights],” Sharks forward Logan Couture admitted, “but we’re just going to see what we’re made of.”

The Phoenix Coyotes are coming off of a 4-0 loss to Detroit on Monday. Although they made it all the way to the 2012 Western Conference finals, they don’t have much left to play for now except for personal pride.

Probable goaltenders: SJS – Antti Niemi (24-11-6, 2.14 GAA, .925 SV%) | PHX – Mike Smith (14-12-4, 2.59 GAA, .910 SV%)

Top scorers: SJS – Joe Thornton (7-33-40, 46 GP) | PHX – Mikkel Boedker (7-18-25, 45 GP)

Notable Injuries:
San Jose – Defensemen: Jason Demers (lower body)
Phoenix – None

Goalie nods: Niemi expected for Stars against Penguins

Antti Niemi, Jonathan Toews
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Talk about getting thrown into the fire.

Antti Niemi is expected to be the starting goalie tonight in Dallas when his Stars host Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Niemi has, not surprisingly, been given the assignment over Kari Lehtonen, the latter of whom struggled badly during the preseason, allowing 15 goals on 84 shots.

Not that Niemi was razor sharp himself. He allowed eight goals on 65 shots, for a save percentage of .877.

Considering the Stars have a combined $10.4 million in cap space tied up in those two veteran netminders, it’s no wonder the number-one question facing the club is whether the goaltending has indeed been fixed.

We’ll start to find out tonight.

Marc-Andre Fleury will undoubtedly be in goal for Pittsburgh, though that hasn’t been confirmed.


Craig Anderson, the goalie the Senators decided to keep, versus Robin Lehner, the one they traded to the Sabres.

Cam Ward will start for Carolina when the Hurricanes visit the Predators, who will obviously go with Pekka Rinne. The consensus is that Eddie Lack will eventually supplant Ward as Carolina’s starter, but that apparently hasn’t happened yet.

Brian Elliott goes for the Blues versus Cam Talbot for the Oilers. Elliott was excellent in the preseason, stopping all but two of the 57 shots he faced, while Jake Allen allowed six goals on 60 shots.

Steve Mason for the Flyers versus Ben Bishop for the Lightning.

Ondrej Pavelec for Winnipeg versus Tuukka Rask for Boston.

Devan Dubnyk likely for the Wild versus Semyon Varlamov for the Avs.

Flyers want to prove doubters wrong

Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux
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Jakub Voracek totally understands why nobody’s expecting much from the Philadelphia Flyers. When a team finishes 14 points out of the playoffs the year before, that’s typically going to be the case.

“We weren’t good enough last year, let’s face it,” Voracek told CSN Philly. 

So, no, it doesn’t upset him that the Flyers aren’t considered among the Stanley Cup favorites.

That being said, “it makes you feel you want to prove them wrong.”

The Flyers get going tonight with a tough game against the Lightning in Tampa Bay. They also play Saturday in Florida against the Panthers, before a rematch with the Panthers Monday in Philadelphia.

“My biggest concern would be getting off to a good start,” GM Ron Hextall said. “That’s one thing that we need to do.”

That’s something they didn’t do last year. In fact, they won just once in their first six games. By the end of November, they were 8-12-3 and in a big hole — one that proved too deep to climb out of.

Related: Flyers to start season with seven defensemen