Tag: opening night

Thomas Greiss

Niemi won’t be ready for Sharks opening night

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.

Jets cancel season ticket accounts for scalping

Winnipeg Jets MTS Centre

Everyone knows that opening night tickets in Winnipeg are a hot commodity. That’s the same kind of understatement as saying “Shea Weber had a pretty good beard last season.” Even though face-value tickets max out at $192 per game, tickets on the secondhand market for opening night are going for more than $4,000. As the season approaches and tickets are increasingly out of control, the Jets organization is doing something about it.

According to James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail in Toronto:

“Winnipeg Jets say a number of season ticket accounts have been cancelled for activity regarding the re-sale of tickets.”

This isn’t the first time that the Jets organization has stepped up to limit the actions of scalpers. Back in June, True North cancelled ticket transactions that they didn’t think were legitimate. After it only took 17 minutes to sell 13,000 season tickets, there were bound to be some issues with average fans looking for single game tickets. Mix in the aura and intrigue of the first regular season NHL game in fifteen years and tickets for Sunday’s game against Montreal have long since been spoken for. Predictably, not everyone who was lucky enough to land tickets plans on using the tickets.

To give proper perspective, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper reportedly asked for 14 tickets to the game—and was only given two by the organization. It’s not every day that an organization refuses to fill the prime minister’s ticket request.

We have to give it up to the Jets organization to do whatever they can to make sure the tickets are getting into the fans’ hands. There’s a supply-and-demand effecting going on in Winnipeg. The MTS Center only holds 15,015 for hockey games and there are about 684,000 people in Winnipeg who want tickets. Considering plenty of scalpers got their hands on the tickets for opening night—and the rest of the season—the Jets are doing their part to get face-value tickets into the hands of their fans.

We wonder: what would have been the going rate if were the Canadiens were playing their opening night game in Atlanta?

Shocker: Martin Havlat to miss opening night

Toronto Maple Leafs v Minnesota Wild

Some players just have reputations of being injury prone. If you were to ask hockey fans about a player who has been known to miss a few games, it wouldn’t take long before you found someone who would mention Martin Havlat’s name. Unfortunately, this news isn’t going to help.

According to Pierre LeBrun, Havlat will miss the Sharks opening game against the Phoenix Coyotes. The newly acquired winger’s shoulder will prevent him from making his season debut in front of the raucous, opening night crowd at the Tank. Havlat may only end up missing a single game due to the Sharks early schedule though. After starting the season at home on Saturday, they have to wait until Friday, October 14th before their second game of the season in Anaheim. The injury doesn’t appear to be serious and the team is hoping to have him back without missing significant time.

Earlier this afternoon, San Jose Mercury News beat reporter David Pollak spoke to Sharks’ head coach Todd McLellan. His comment was simple and straight to the point: “If his doctor says he needs a little more time, we can live with that.” According to LeBrun, he’ll need a little more time.

Havlat has the reputation of being one of the most injured players in recent memory—but it’s a reputation that he’s been working to shed over the last three seasons. Following the lockout, Havlat was a groin/hamstring injury just waiting to happen. He averaged only 36 games per season between 2005-2008. Within the stretch, he only played 18 games in the first year after the lockout; the season happened to be his last with the Ottawa Senators as well. His injuries overshadowed that he was almost a point-per-game player over the same stretch.

But that was then. Over the last three seasons, he’s been on the ice for significantly more action than the previous three years. During his last season in Chicago and two campaigns in Minnesota, Havlat averaged 77 games per season. Sure, missing 5 games per season isn’t going to remind anyone of Cal Ripken or Brett Favre—but he’s hardly the alone in the trainer’s room.

Besides, if he only misses opening night, he can still tie his career high with 81 games played this season. The last time he played 81 games, he racked up 29 goals and 77 points en route to a trip to the Western Conference final with the Blackhawks. After two consecutive trips to the conference finals, the Sharks are hoping that Havlat can help the team get over the hump and make their first Stanley Cup final in franchise history.

From the team’s point of view, they plan on letting Havlat’s shoulder heal at its own pace. It’s a long season with extremely high expectations. From that perspective, there’s no reason to rush Havlat back to the ice before he’s fully healthy. Hopefully for fans in San Jose, he was just bitten by the injury bug a little earlier this season.

Toronto’s final cuts could be complicated thanks to suspension, injuries


The Toronto Maple Leafs’ preseason ended with a 4-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, but they still have work to do before the season starts. Most precisely, the Leafs’ front office must cut its roster from 29 to 23 players by Wednesday, a process that will force GM Brian Burke & Co. to make some tough choices.

The hard deadline is on Wednesday, but James Mirtle explains that the team might be better off making its choices before their Monday morning practice.

Making final cuts is an inherently uncomfortable job, but the Maple Leafs’ situation is a little more complicated. As Mirtle explains, suspended winger Clarke MacArthur still counts as one of the team’s 23 players, so they won’t be able to keep an extra guy up for the two regular season games he’ll miss.

Injuries add enough wrinkle to the team’s decision making process as well. The team won’t get a break regarding players dealing with day-to-day issues, although the team could place budding prospect Nazem Kadri on the injured reserve to open up some room.

Mirtle explains that the team will need to cut five more players to get to the maximum allotment of 23 if Kadri is on the IR. First, let’s start with the guys who locked up their spots already, according to Mirtle.

Forwards: Colby Armstrong, Tyler Bozak, Mike Brown, Tim Connolly, Mikhail Grabovski, Kadri (IR), Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin, Matthew Lombardi, Joffrey Lupul, MacArthur and Colton Orr.

Defense: Dion Phaneuf, Luke Schenn, John-Michael Liles, Cody Franson, Carl Gunnarsson and Mike Komisarek.

Goalies: James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson.

While Mirtle believes the Leafs’ goalie duo is settled, here are Mirtle’s choices for defensemen and forwards who are “on the bubble.”

Bubble forwards: Darryl Boyce, Joey Crabb, Philippe Dupuis, Matt Frattin, Jay Rosehill and Michael Zigomanis.

Frontrunners for final spots: Mirtle opines that Boyce and Frattin are the frontrunners, going as far as to say that Boyce is a “lock.” Crabb, Rosehill and Zigomanis seem likely to head back down to the minors while Dupuis might be a wild card.

Bubble defensemen: Keith Aulie, Jake Gardiner and Matt Lashoff.

Frontrunners for final spots: Mirtle pegs Gardiner as the likely winner of that standoff, citing some positive feedback from Leafs head coach Ron Wilson.

“I’m confident that he’s ready to play,” Wilson said on Saturday. “But those are things that we’re going to discuss later.”

If Mirtle’s viewpoint is correct, then Lashoff, Crabb and Rosehill seem like near-certain cuts while Aulie and Dupuis should also fall short of the opening day roster. It might not seem like a big deal, but depth players can make a difference in tight races, whether they provide timely goals, useful defense or a vague sense of “energy” during their limited ice time. Making the right choices could help Toronto end their lengthy playoff drought.

Mike Fisher slowly recovering from offseason surgery, could be in doubt for season opener

Nashville Predators v Vancouver Canucks - Game One

It’s an exciting season in the Hockey Tonk this year as the Predators look to build on their best postseason in franchise history. The organization had noticeable momentum last season—on the ice, in the stands, and around town. The big question now: what will the Predators do for an encore?

The big story of the offseason was undoubtedly Shea Weber and his contract negotiations. But another story that flew under the radar hasn’t worked out quite as well: Mike Fisher’s shoulder. The mid-season acquisition underwent offseason shoulder surgery in May and was supposed to be ready for training camp. Well, he was at training camp—just not participating in anything too intensive.

Josh Cooper from The Tennessean caught up with Fisher to shed a little light on the recovery process:

“Still not ready for contact or anything. But I am skating and starting to shoot a bit, and it’s coming. I’m just really not sure as far as timetable. I just have to be patient.”

Asked if there is any fear that he won’t be ready for the start of the season, Fisher displayed some uncertainty.

“Not sure to be honest,” he said. “We’ll see if I can slip into training camp, get strong and feel good. But it’s coming up quick. It has been a long haul so far, so we’ll see.”

The last part of Fisher’s comments doesn’t sound very encouraging. The problem with Fisher missing any regular season games is two-fold. First and foremost, nobody in the Western Conference is in the position to waste away points in the beginning of the season. Each team will be competing to get off to a good start and create a little room between themselves and the 9th seed. Like everyone else, the Preds would like to stockpile as many wins in October in case they run into problems later in the season.

Also, it wouldn’t hurt attendance in football country if the Predators capitalized on the momentum they created last postseason.

Secondly, Fisher proved to be an important player for Nashville in his 27 games with the organization. He may have only scored 5 goals and 12 points in his short stint with the Preds, but it was his importance to the rest of the team that made him so valuable. Guys like David Legwand were put into positions to succeed while Fisher and his linemates faced the opponents’ top defensive pairings. In turn, Legwand was freed up to play a more offensive role. He may not be a #1 center option, but he proved at the end of the season that he’s a pretty good alternative on the second line.

Those are the things won’t show up on Fisher’s stat sheet.

The next step is watching how Fisher recovers throughout training camp and the preseason. As he alluded to in his comments, once he recovers and is cleared for contact, he’ll still have to work himself into game shape. Sadly, those are the things that players usually do during the preseason. Veteran players like Fisher are certainly capable of missing a few weeks before the season starts—but everyone involved would like him to get a little contact in before the games start to count.