The Sharks made it eight consecutive victories in their last outing, a 3-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings at home. It was the second time on said eight-game win streak that the Sharks beat the Red Wings, which has to feel good for their confidence going forward. Antti Niemi is a player that has to be running with an awful lot of confidence right now, after beginning the season on such a low note with a lot of scrutiny coming his way in relation to his previous season with the Chicago Blackhawks. For somebody who supposedly rode the coattails of the Blackhawks defense, Niemi sure is becoming a rock for the San Jose Sharks.
Initially giving up ground to Antero Niittymaki, Niemi appeared to get shaken early and often, and every time "Nitty" would come in and put on a strong performance, Niemi's response would be lackluster and uninspired, making the division of playing time clear for the coaching staff. Then Niittymaki went down with an injury, and it was all-Niemi all the time.
He hasn't disappointed. Maybe it's a confidence factor, or maybe the Sharks changed something, but he's playing like a number one goalie, and now he's getting paid like one. In a move unlike Doug Wilson, the Sharks inked Niemi to a four-year contract extension worth $15.2 million, at around $3.8 million per. It's obvious that Niemi deserves the contract, but it's not something that the team is known to do during the season. My theory is that they felt Niemi nearing a turning point in his season, that physically he was able to play with the top level, and just needed a mental edge to push himself over. The contract extension did that, and now he's playing even better - as evidenced by the eight game winning streak.
The People Have Spoken: San Jose defeats Detroit 3-1, extend winning streak to something like forty three games
That's the title of the recap over at Fear The Fin for Thursday's game against the Red Wings. It's an accurate portrayal of how things seem in San Jose right now. Dany Heatley put the puck in net twice, and Patrick Marleau added the third insurance goal to give them their 3-1 lead that would eventually represent the outcome. Antti Niemi surrendered one goal on 27 shots, and the Sharks continues rolling.
San Jose is looking to make it nine straight when they host the Stars on Saturday. Whereas the Sharks are riding some momentum, the Stars were halted in their tracks by the Anaheim Ducks in their last outing, as Lubomir Visnovsky secured a hat trick to give them the overtime win over Dallas. Adam Burish, Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn scored for the Stars, who were up 3-1 after two periods. Kari Lehtonen stopped 25 pucks in the losing effort.
The Stars were on a three-game winning streak, which itself came after a five-game losing skid. Dallas has taken two-of-three meetings between the teams this season, though San Jose won the last outing on December 16th, in Texas. Both teams are possibly without contributing defensemen, though the Sharks will be missing Dan Boyle much more than the Stars will be missing Nicklas Grossman.