By: Adam Gretz
The San Jose Sharks seem to be running out of goaltenders, and due to a couple of recent surgical procedures they could find themselves in a position where their starting goaltender is Thomas Greiss when they open the regular season on Oct. 8 against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Antti Niemi's status is still unknown at this point as he continues to recover from having a cyst removed during the offseason, and according to David Pollack of the San Jose Mercury News, he's not sure if he'll be ready for the season opener. Niemi, of course, is the Sharks No. 1 goaltender and is coming off a 2010-11 season that saw him finish with a .920 save percentage which resulted in him signing a four-year, $15.2 million contract extension this summer.
If Niemi were to miss any time, his backup, Antero Niittymaki would figure to fill in. The only problem with that is that he will be out of the lineup for the next 12 weeks after undergoing a surgical procedure to help relieve lingering pain from a lower body injury he suffered last season. That means Greiss, a third-round pick by the Sharks in 2004, will get the majority of the work throughout the remainder of the preseason and should, at the very least, open the season as San Jose's No. 2 goaltender, and perhaps its starter if Niemi isn't quite ready.
In 24 games last season Niittymaki recorded a .896 save percentage.
Greiss spent last season playing in the Swedish Elite League with Brynas IF Gavle. He's appeared in just 19 NHL games over parts of two seasons, and most recently played for the Sharks during the 2009-10 season, appearing in 16 games.
Assuming Niemi's injury doesn't linger and he's ready to go early in the season the situation shouldn't be that big of a concern, as the dropoff from Niittymaki to Greiss in the backup role shouldn't be that large, if it's even a drop at all. If Niemi isn't ready, however, the goaltending situation could be problematic in the early going for a team that's won four straight division titles.
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