January 31, 2015 By Paul Gackle

Rink Notes: Kennedy Sidelined For At Least One More Game

SAN JOSE — Tyler Kennedy’s patience will be tested for at least one more game.

Kennedy took the ice at the San Jose Sharks morning skate on Saturday, but he won’t be in the lineup when Team Teal squares off against the Chicago Blackhawks at SAP Center.

The 28-year-old suffered what the team is calling a “lower-body injury” in the Sharks first practice after the All-Star break on Tuesday. Right now, he’s still considered “day-to-day”.

“I’m doing everything I can to stay healthy,” Kennedy said. “It’s a little setback, but I’m starting to feel good again, so I’m glad it’s nothing too serious.”

The injury is the latest setback in Kennedy’s rollercoaster season.

Kennedy started the season on the IR, missing the team’s first 13 outings of the year. He also missed a pair of games on Nov. 29 and Dec. 2 with a minor injury before getting sidelined for 15 more contests after hurting his left shoulder against the Calgary Flames on Dec. 6.

After a subpar campaign in his first season with the Sharks, Kennedy’s produced when he’s been in the lineup this year, bringing speed and skill to the team’s bottom six.

In 18 games, Kennedy’s collected seven points (4g, 3a) while posting a plus-5. His possession numbers are strong, too. He currently leads the team in on-ice Corsi (58.6 percent of the shot attempts while he’s on the ice are taken by the Sharks) and is third in on-ice Fenwick (55.7 percent of the shot attempts, not including blocked shots, while he’s on the ice are taken by the Sharks). Keep in mind, these numbers are based on a small-sample size.

The injuries are frustrating for Kennedy, who’s trying to leave a strong impression with the squad after struggling during the 2013-14 season. But the 28-year-old said his wife, Brandi Kennedy, keeps him grounded.

“She never lets me feel sorry for myself. She always takes it as a challenge,” Kennedy said, adding: “It’s just nice to have a good support system there.”

Say Antti: Sharks netminder Antti Niemi will square off against another Finnish goalie on Saturday. This time, he’ll face a competitor who shares his name.

Blackhawks All-Star goalie Corey Crawford will be receiving a night off after beating the Anaheim Ducks in Orange County on Friday, opening the door for the Antti vs. Antti showdown at SAP Center.

Antti Raanta will get the nod for the Blackhawks, which is hardly a break for the Sharks. In 11 outings this year, Raanta is 7-3 with a 1.88 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage.

“His numbers are very good all over,” head coach Todd McLellan said. “When you look at his save percentage. I think the group in front of him plays a pretty-good game defensively, they get enough credit for that. They’re always talked about offensively, so he gets some protection from them.”

Niemi said he met Raanta at a Finnish Olympic team meeting roughly a year-and-a-half ago. According to Niemi, Antti is a common first name in Finland.

“Athletic,” Niemi said, when asked to describe Raanta’s game. “Battles hard.”

While this is Niemi’s fifth season in Teal, he still gets excited when he faces off against the squad that he won a Stanley Cup with during the 2009-10 season.

“It’s still there. It’s fun to play against them,” Niemi said. “It’s a big challenge, they have a good team.”

Eyes & Numbers

The Sharks don’t want to be playing catch up against Blackhawks tonight. The two-time Stanley Cup champions know how to finish the job when they get a lead. They’re 17-0 when leading after two periods this season. The Sharks are pretty good with a third-period lead, too, compiling a 16-1-2 record when leading after two frames.

Antti Niemi became the first Finnish goalie to win the Stanley Cup when he hoisted hockey’s sacred trophy as a member of the Blackhawks in June 2010.

Joe Thornton is averaging more than a point per game against the Blackhawks in his career. Thornton’s accumulated 45 points in 44 games against original-six squad.