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Niemi Gets the Call, Vlasic is Out Game 7

Wednesday, 04.30.2014 / 1:57 PM PT / News
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Niemi Gets the Call, Vlasic is Out Game 7
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SAN JOSE -- After a one-game break, San Jose Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi will return to the starting lineup Wednesday at SAP Center for Game 7 of their Western Conference First Round series against the Los Angeles Kings (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, PRIME, CSN-CA).

Backup Alex Stalock replaced Niemi in Game 6 and made his first start in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a 4-1 loss to Los Angeles at Staples Center. Niemi was pulled for Stalock early in the third period of Game 4 and early in the second of Game 5.

"I think the break was good for [Niemi]," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after an optional morning skate. "He got a chance to work on some things in his game that the goaltending coach wanted to work on. He got a chance to rest. Our team did need a change heading into Game 6 into L.A. Unfortunately, we had to pull him twice, but that wasn't all on Nemo's shoulders. It's pretty evident and obvious, I hope I've made that clear. But moving forward with Nemo, we want to give Nemo an opportunity."

Niemi allowed eight goals on 91 shots in the first three games when the Sharks bolted to a 3-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. In his next two starts, losses, he allowed eight goals on 45 shots.

Niemi said missing Game 6 could turn out to be a good thing for him.

"I got a couple extra practice days between, maybe work on some stuff," Niemi said. "Either way, having a day off from the game, not being so focused, maybe that's a good thing too."

Niemi won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, going 16-6 with a 2.63 goals-against average. He has played in 61 postseason games, including Game 7 of a second-round series in 2011 when the Sharks beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 and Game 7 of a second-round series against the Kings last year when he played well in a 2-1 loss at Staples Center.

"It's always a different situation, but of course it gives me a little extra confidence," Niemi said of his experience. "But it's more about what's happening today, and we've got to be ready to go."

Niemi said his confidence hasn't slipped after being benched for Game 6.

"No. The Game 6 morning skate I felt very good," Niemi said. "I felt good yesterday on the ice. I felt good today. I felt very good for a period of time. I don't think it matters."

When McLellan announced on the morning of Game 1 that Niemi would start, he called him his go-to guy. Wednesday, McLellan said Niemi and all of his top players have to produce to beat the Kings.

"For us to win tonight, or for them to win in that case, you'll hear clinches about how it's going to take the full team, and obviously it will, but I think our core and our team has to step up," McLellan said. "They were there early in the series. L.A.'s core has been there later in the series. Tonight is the deciding game. And in my opinion, Nemo is a very big part of that core. So they'll get a chance to perform in that Game 7."

For the second straight game the Sharks will be without top defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who sustained an upper-body injury in Game 5 when Kings forward Jarret Stoll checked him into the boards then delivered a forearm blow to the side of his head.

Defenseman Matt Irwin will start again in place of Vlasic.

Because the Sharks had an optional skate, they had no line rushes. But rookie Tomas Hertl wore a teal jersey, an indicator he'll likely open the game on the third line and that Joe Pavelski will open on the top line at left wing, along with center Joe Thornton and right wing Brent Burns.

Author: Eric Gilmore | NHL.com Staff Writer

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 51 24 7 228 221 109
2 y - STL 82 51 24 7 239 197 109
3 x - NSH 82 47 25 10 226 202 104
4 x - CHI 82 48 28 6 220 186 102
5 x - VAN 82 48 29 5 236 220 101
6 x - MIN 82 46 28 8 227 198 100
7 x - WPG 82 43 26 13 223 204 99
8 x - CGY 82 45 30 7 237 213 97
9 LAK 82 40 27 15 218 197 95
10 DAL 82 41 31 10 257 257 92
11 COL 82 39 31 12 209 223 90
12 SJS 82 40 33 9 224 226 89
13 EDM 82 24 44 14 193 276 62
14 ARI 82 24 50 8 165 267 56

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Pavelski 82 37 33 12 70
L. Couture 82 27 40 -6 67
J. Thornton 78 16 49 -4 65
B. Burns 82 17 43 -9 60
P. Marleau 82 19 38 -17 57
T. Wingels 75 15 21 -7 36
T. Hertl 82 13 18 -5 31
M. Nieto 72 10 17 -12 27
M. Karlsson 53 13 11 -3 24
M. Vlasic 70 9 14 12 23
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Niemi 31 23 7 .914 2.59
A. Stalock 8 9 2 .902 2.62
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