In an offseason that went by rather quickly (perhaps aided by a substantially enjoyable Bay Area MLB showing), the Sharks didn't do a whole lot of changing. Except of course, in the one area that might be the most crucial. Actually, that's a bit of a misnomer, the most crucial piece of the team that needed upgrading was the defense and that went un-addressed. So naturally, the one area that needed to be consistent if the defense were to stay the same for the Sharks to have a good season this year, the goaltending, underwent a rather drastic change.
Evgeni Nabokov is out, while Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki are in. Niemi has the distinguishing quality of coming off a Stanley Cup victory with the Chicago Blackhawks, but has since had a rocky preseason in San Jose after being inked as a free agent. Still, Niemi is the clear "number one," guy in the tandem of two if you had to put one above the other, and he will be doing the net-minding in the season opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Sharks defensive unit, sans Rob Blake, who retired this offseason, will look to start the 2010-2011 season off the right way with a win over the Blue Jackets while playing well and ultimately doing Niemi all the favors he needs to get rolling. Speaking of Rob Blake, look for Joe Thornton out there tonight, as you always should, as he's inherited the captaincy for the Sharks.
Whereas the Sharks are looking to get their season off to a good start to signify yet another return to the playoffs, the Blue Jackets will look to right the wrongs of a disappointing 2009 campaign. They're a team eerily similar to last year's seemingly under-achieving unit, save for the change in the coaching department, where Scott Arniel will be making his debut.
More than anything, the Sharks just need to look as good as they did last year by beating a team that shouldn't have any business beating them.
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Dany Heatley
Jamie McGinn - Joe Thornton - Devin Setoguchi
Ryane Clowe - Joe Pavelski - Torrey Mitchell
Frazer McLaren - Scott Nichol - Tommy Wingels
Douglas Murray - Dan Boyle
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Niclas Wallin
Jason Demers - Kent Huskins
You can see the Blue Jackets lineup at our Columbus Blue Jackets blog, The Cannon.