In the wake of his team's historically improbable 6-5 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Kings, Sharks coach Todd McLellan stopped short of a definitive answer Wednesday to the biggest question of the day.
Who gets the start in goal Thursday night for Game 4 of this first-round playoff series, Antti Niemi or backup Antero Niittymaki?
"When you look at (Niemi's) record, when we pulled him throughout the season -- which wasn't very often -- he always responded very well," McLellan said before heading into a meeting with players at the team hotel. "If we go that route, which I think we're leaning toward, we expect him to be very good."
McLellan pulled Niemi in Game 3 after he gave up four goals on 10 shots. Niittymaki entered the game with his team trailing 4-0, then played well enough for San Jose to become only the fourth team in NHL history to overcome a deficit that size en route to a playoff win.
Choosing a goalie isn't the only challenge facing McLellan. He also needs to figure out a way to get his team to avoid the letdown that followed a Game 1 overtime victory if San Jose wants to leave Los Angeles with a 3-1 series lead.
And that involves reminding his team of what it did wrong as well as what it did right in Game 3.
"Our group, we're going to feel pretty good about ourselves because of the comeback," McLellan said. "As a coaching staff, we have to remind them that there were 21 minutes played early in the game when we weren't very good. There'll be a balance between good and bad."
In Game 1, the Sharks beat the Kings 3-2 in overtime -- then were so amped up for Game 2 that San Jose played undisciplined hockey and abandoned its system. Los Angeles then had no trouble mounting a 4-0 victory.
"We're in the exact same situation tomorrow, so hopefully lesson learned," said Ryane Clowe, who leads the Sharks with five points this series but also took two ill-advised penalties in San Jose's loss.
The goalie question is one that McLellan has been telegraphing for months.
Sharks leaning toward Antti Niemi in goal
San Jose Mercury News | Apr 21