Niittymaki looks to take the start tonight against the Devils
It's a matchup of underperformers as the Sharks play host to the New Jersey Devils tonight in a battle of struggling teams. The Sharks who are winless in two home games this year, have a lot in common with the Devils in that they have yet to put it all together.
The Devils enter the contest having lost the four of the last five games and dropping seven of nine to start the young season. In the middle of a west coast road trip, the Devils will visit the Sharks who are still seeking their first home win.
Shark fans will get to see the 100 million dollar man Ilya Kovalchuk who was a healthy scratch for the 6-1 drubbing the Devils endured at the hands of the Sabres. Kovalchuk would return to the lineup against the Rangers and would tally the team's lone goal in a 3-1 setback.
The Devils have struggled offensively this season, totalling just 15 goals and have been held to one goal in three of their last four games.
"I think we played a good game, we just can't score goals right now," Kovalchuk said after potting his third goal of the season. "We need to be a little more simple and get more traffic in front. It seems like all the goalies play their best games against us. We need to get through that together."
The Sharks are also stumbling out of the gate, displaying a lack of defensive focus and terrific ability to turn the puck over in their own zone.
Joe Pavelski has tallied three goals over his previous two games and led the Sharks with six shots in their blowout loss to the Flames.
Antti Niemi allowed three goals on five shots before being lifted in the first period in favor of Antero Niittymaki, who halted 24 shots the rest of the way after a shaky start.
"In the first period there probably could have been two pucks on the ice and we wouldn't have had either one of them," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "We weren't playing the way we're supposed to play as far as the system went, and it was very disappointing."
Niemi is sporting a horrific 4.50 goals against average over his first four starts, and has lacked support from a suddenly confused looking defensive corps.
Having said that however, Niittymaki has suffered from similar defensive issues and yet sports a 2-0-1 record with a 1.81 GAA in his four games. Should Niittymaki get the call tonight, his record against the Devils is just 3-7-5 with a 2.79 career GAA.
Brodeur is 10-6-0 with a 2.33 GAA in his career when facing the Sharks, who have lost three straight and seven of their last eight versus the Devils.
New Jersey last won in the Tank last year in a 4-3 victory that had Kovalchuk potting one goal and an assist, which upped his career numbers to two goals and five points against the Sharks