Feb 17, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — Carolina hosts the San Jose Sharks on Friday at the RBC Center for only meeting between the teams in 2011-12 (7 p.m. ET, FOX Sports Carolinas HD, 99.9FM The Fan ESPN Radio).
The Sharks are likely going to ride Antti Niemi for as long as their season lasts, but that didn't stop head coach Todd McLellan from calling out his goaltender Thursday night.
San Jose will look to rebound this evening as it continues a nine-game road trip with a meeting against a Carolina Hurricanes squad that is hoping to get out of the basement in the Eastern Conference.
The Sharks have compiled a 1-1-1 record so far on their longest road trip of the season and were in action last night in Tampa. San Jose got a game-tying goal from Tommy Wingels with 5:10 left in regulation, but Martin St. Louis' second goal of the game for the Lightning with 32.8 ticks remaining in overtime handed San Jose a 6-5 defeat.
Niemi managed just 19 saves in the contest while allowing a season-high six goals. He has been tagged for at least four goals in seven of his past 13 outings, but also has three shutouts in that span. It is that inconsistency that may have led to McLellan's harsh words for his netminder last night.
"He wasn't any good. I protect him a lot and I talk about the team, but he has to be better, flat out has to be better," said McLellan. "They scored four goals on net play, rebounds, picking up the garbage, wraparounds, jams. That's our defensemen. That's our low forwards. So everybody has some responsibility, but (Niemi) knows he has to be better."
It is unknown if McLellan will give Niemi a chance to rebound this evening or go with backup Thomas Greiss for the second time in three games. Greiss made 39 saves on 42 shots to beat Washington on Monday and is 4-0-1 in his past five appearances, allowing eight goals in that time.
The Sharks still lead the Pacific Division by four points over both the Coyotes and Kings and lost defenseman Douglas Murray to a throat injury after he was hit by a puck early in the first period. The injury required a trip to the hospital.
San Jose, though, could get a boost from veteran center Dominic Moore tonight after acquiring him from the Lightning prior to last night's game for a 2012 second-round pick. The Sharks also got a seventh-round selection in the upcoming draft from the Bolts.
Moore had played in all 56 games for the Lightning this season, recording four goals and 15 assists.
"Dominic is an extremely versatile player that has performed in a lot of important playoff games the last two years," Sharks executive vice president and general manager Doug Wilson said. "We feel that he is a great fit in several areas and his veteran presence will benefit our team greatly."
The Hurricanes probably won't be playing in any more important games this season, but the club does have a shot at climbing out of last place in the Eastern Conference. Carolina trails Buffalo by one point in the standings and the Sabres are hosting the Canadiens this evening.
Carolina is coming off a win over Montreal, a 5-3 decision on Monday. The Hurricanes trailed by a goal heading into the final period, but Eric Staal sparked a three-goal frame with a shorthanded tally 3:15 into the stanza and capped the scoring with an empty-net goal.
Jamie McBain had the game-winner on a power play with 11:10 to play as Carolina improved to 1-14-2 when trailing after two periods this season.
"That penalty kill was big. Any time you get offensive chances the other way, you make sure you cash in," said Staal, who has six pints in his past three games.
"We had adjusted in the third, got more aggressive and did a better job. A shorthanded goal can build some momentum and we continued on the attack and turned our power play around."
Staal and McBain also had assists and Jiri Tlusty scored to give him three goals and two helpers over a five-game point streak. Cam Ward came up with 30 saves for a Carolina club that was coming off consecutive overtime losses and is 3-0-2 in its past five.
Carolina forward Tuomo Ruutu left Monday's game with an upper-body injury and is expected to miss three weeks of action. He leads the club with 17 goals. Chad LaRose is also doubtful for tonight to return from an upper-body ailment of his own.
The 'Canes will play seven of their next eight at home, where they are 9-3-1 in their past 13.
Carolina has won three of its past four against San Jose, picking up a 5-2 road victory in the lone meeting last year. The Sharks did snap a three-game road slide in this series when the clubs last met in Carolina.