Rink Notes: Both Sharks Goalies Sick With Colds
SAN JOSE — A cold virus swept through the San Jose Sharks locker room during the team’s seven-game road trip out east, infecting both goalies, Antti Niemi and Alex Stalock.
The cold kept Niemi off the ice on Sunday as the Sharks completed their 14-day road swing with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, their second game in two days. As a result, Stalock received his second-straight start, stopping 31 of 33 shots, despite feeling under the weather himself.
“Obviously, something’s going around,” Stalock said. “I’m just coughing. I got over it on the road at some point and I’m just still coughing, waking up jammed up.”
While Stalock could be heard hacking after practice on Tuesday, he said the worst days of his cold are behind him, which is why he was able to start back-to-back games over the weekend, including a 3-2 shootout win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
But as Stalock’s condition improved toward the end of the trip, Niemi caught the bug. The cold kept Niemi, who could be heard coughing viciously after practice on Tuesday, out of Sunday’s game.
Niemi said his health has improved over the last couple of days and the Sharks coaching staff will determine whether he suits up for the team’s game against the Colorado Avalanche at SAP Center on Wednesday.
At this point, Stalock appears likely to receive his third-straight start when the Sharks return to action at the Tank.
“Obviously, leaning toward Alex because of that,” head coach Todd McLellan said, referring to Niemi’s cold. “And Alex has played well the last two nights that he’s got the opportunity.”
Stalock received back-to-back starts over the weekend for the first time since he strung together three in a row from Dec. 7 to Dec. 11 while Niemi was sidelined with a day-to-day injury after “taking a shot” in practice.
Despite his health, Stalock said the back-to-back starts helped him find a rhythm against the Penguins. After surrendering two first period goals, the Sharks netminder allowed his team to climb back into the game by making several big saves, including an across-the-crease stop on Evgeni Malkin from in close.
“You’re a little bit more comfortable, a little bit more patient,” Stalock said, referring to benefit of receiving back-to-back starts. “You see the puck a little bit more and you can feel it.”
After posting a 1.87 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage in 24 appearances last season, Stalock’s number have slipped this year.
In 19 appearances, Stalock has recorded a 2.55 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage, which could be a reflection of his sporadic workload this season as Niemi has received 58 starts to his 16 starts.
But as Niemi approaches unrestricted free agency this summer, Stalock might receive an opportunity to strut his stuff in the blue paint over the Sharks last six games.
Stalock, however, isn’t viewing the remainder of the schedule as an audition for next year. It’s a chance to make the playoffs as the Sharks have yet to be mathematically eliminated despite trailing the Winnipeg Jets by seven points for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
“These are important games for us,” Stalock said, referring to the Sharks last six games. “We saw another team that’s in the trenches lose last night (Los Angeles Kings), so tomorrow’s a huge two points again, man. Until they say we’re not in it anymore, we’re going to keep getting two points.”