Antti Niemi is in control of the Sharks' net more than ever.

Those are his red pipes to tap with his stick before periods.

That is his powder-blue crease to carve up after a Zamboni buffing.

This is not a one-season-and-done run anymore.

If Sharks fans weren't sure whether to embrace him earlier this season, they should now. He received a four-year, $15.2 million contract extension Tuesday, then helped the Sharks win their seventh straight game that night.

"Getting more wins made me feel more comfortable, and it makes life way more fun," Niemi said after the 2-1 shootout victory over the Colorado Avalanche.

It's rather odd not hearing the decade-long, fun-loving cheers of "Nab-by! Nab-by" inside HP Pavilion anymore. But the Sharks are again winning, the sellout crowd is still cheering, and the goaltending remains top-notch.

The Evgeni Nabokov era was special. Niemi's could be, too.

Niemi has started 19 consecutive games for the red-hot Sharks heading into Thursday night's battle against Western Conference power Detroit.

The Sharks won the past two meetings with the Red Wings -- both in Detroit with Niemi in goal -- so home-ice advantage isn't vital to the Sharks' cause. But they sure could improve on a 16-10-3 home record that ranks tied for fourth-worst in the conference.

Niemi agreed: "For sure, it's our home rink, so that should be our advantage. To make it an advantage, we have to keep up our hard work mentally, like we've done on the road."