By Amanda DiPaolo
On December 15th, the San Jose Sharks made their first of two visits to Bridgestone Arena this season. It was the first time Predators fans saw Antti Niemi since Nashville’s game six loss to Chicago in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Niemi helped the Blackhawks win their first Stanley Cup in 49 years, and in doing so became the first Finnish goaltender to hoist Lord Stanley’s hardware.
When in town to face Nashville in San Jose’s 3-2 loss last week, Niemi spoke with Predlines about just how difficult it was to play Nashville in the playoffs.
“I think all the series were difficult, but especially against Nashville.
I remember the series being tied back in Chicago and us coming back [after trailing] at the end of the game without the goalie and winning in overtime. If we lost that game they would have been leading the series,” Niemi said before adding, “It was an extremely hard series for us. It was a great feeling beating them here.”
After winning the Stanley Cup, Niemi, a restricted free agent, filed for arbitration during the off season. The 27 year old was awarded $2.75 million, which forced the Blackhawks to walk away from their star goalie due to salary constraints. Chicago then signed Marty Turco from the Dallas Stars for $1.3 million and Niemi went to the Sharks on a one-year deal worth $2 million.
Almost halfway through the season, Niemi likes playing in San Jose, sharing goaltending duties with Antero Niittymaki. “I’m getting more games lately. I feel confident. The organization is great. It’s pretty good [playing in San Jose].”
In 16 games this season, Niemi has posted a 6-8-2 record with an .897 save percentage and a 3.15 goals against average, a far cry from last season’s .912 save percentage and 2.25 goals against average in Chicago. But with his confidence growing with each game that passes, watch for those statistics to improve.
Tonight, San Jose hosts Edmonton. Wednesday, the Predators face Niemi’s former team, the Blackhawks for their third of six meetings this season. So far, Nashville has beaten Chicago in each of their two previous engagements.
Are you looking for tickets to an upcoming Predators home game? Follow this link for discounted tickets. Make an account and then use the word Preds as the code for the discount.