View Count: 108 |  Publish Date: December 21, 2013
Goalie depth boosts Pacific leaders

Conventional wisdom in todays NHL suggests that a team needs two goaltenders to negotiate the rigors of an 82-game season.
Dont, however, try to convince the Sharks two biggest division rivals - the Ducks and Kings - that two is enough. Anaheim and Los Angeles have needed three netminders before the midseason mark, and the combined four backups have been nothing less than spectacular.
Coincidence or not, the Ducks and Kings are 1-2 in the ultra-competitive Pacific.
It all starts with the team playing in front of them, but Martin Jones (7-0-0, 0.85 goals-against average, .971 save percentage) and Ben Scrivens (7-3-4, 1.66, .941) certainly minimized what could have been a devastating injury to Jonathan Quick, who left the Los Angeles crease indefinitely with a groin injury Nov. 12.
In Anaheim, Frederik Andersen (8-1-0, 1.74, .938) bailed out the Ducks while starter Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth traded time with injuries.
Elsewhere in the league, you can point to five pretty decent teams that featured the backup goalie sporting better stats than the first-teamer before Fridays action. The list includes Chicago (backup Antti Raanta over Corey Crawford), Detroit (Jonas Gustavsson over Jimmy Howard), Phoenix (ex-Shark Thomas Greiss over Mike Smith), Washington (Philipp Grubauer over both Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth) and the New York Rangers (Cam Talbot over Henrik Lundqvist).
The big question here is how the Sharks would fare if workhorse starter Antti Niemi was sidelined for an extended period. Backup goalie Alex Stalock has started only four of San Joses first 35 games, and while his 2.05 GAA and .930 save percentage top Niemis numbers (2.31 and .913), that snapshot hardly provides an accurate forecast.
Stalock has appeared only twice since Nov. 15 - in back-to-back games Dec. 5-6, the first in relief and the latter as a starter when he surrendered four goals against Carolina and didnt look pretty doing it.
Stalock has a more active stick than Niemi, but otherwise its clear who is No. 1. In addition, there is sentiment toward a shared backup role after Harri Sateri played well during training camp and preseason. However, Sateris American Hockey League numbers at Worcester (5-8-1, 3.16, .877) dont inspire thoughts of promotion. Its hard to say how much of that is on the AHL team and how much on Sateri.
Bottom line: Niemi is not injury prone, so its a non-issue. But the Sharks would have to hope their goaltending depth is as solid as the other contenders if they found themselves in that position.
Mr. Clutch: Pittsburghs Sidney Crosby leads the league with 10 third-period goals this season (in addition to two in overtime). Of Crosbys 15 goals during last years lockout-shortened campaign - and it was just 36 games for the Pens captain after injury - he tallied only five in third periods.
Mr. Consistency: Chicagos Patrick Kane, riding his second scoring streak of 10 or more games this season into Fridays game, reached the 20-goal plateau for the seventh straight season since entering the league. Only four other active players have scored 20 or more goals in each of their first seven seasons: Jaromir Jagr (first 17), Teemu Selanne (11), Alex Ovechkin (nine) and Thomas Vanek (eight).
Good genes: Many hockey fans have heard of the Sutter family, and the six brothers who combined to play 4,994 games from 1976-01. Now their offspring are making names for themselves. Pittsburghs Brandon Sutter, son of Brent, scored his first career shootout winner Wednesday. The 24-year-old has eight goals and 15 points in 37 games.
As for the rest, Brent Sutter, 26 - ex-Sharks coach Darryls son - is scoreless in 12 games for Carolina, and a teammate of Brody Sutter, 22 - Duanes son - when skating for the Hurricanes AHL affiliate in Charlotte. Shaun Sutter, 33 - Brians son - has turned to coaching following a pro career in the minors and Europe. And Lukas Sutter, 20 - Richs son - was drafted in the second round by Winnipeg in 2012 and plays for Red Deer in the Western Hockey League.
Slap shots: Ovechkin has seven career game-tying goals in the final minute of regulation, three more than any other player since the Capitals sensation entered the league in October 2005. ... Anaheims Dustin Penner scored 10 goals in 29 games to match his total from his prior 115 regular-season outings dating to 2010-11. ... Tampa Bay has won twice in two tries at Detroit this season after going just 1-13-1 in its previous 15 visits to Joe Louis Arena.
Sharks on Saturday
Who: Stars (17-12-5) at Sharks (21-8-6)
Where: SAP Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: CSNCA/98.5, 102.1
Noteworthy: Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl is unlikely to play after leaving a game Thursday following a knee-on-knee hit.
Ross McKeon is a freelance writer.

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Time: 2:56  |  News Code: 351011  |  Site: San Francisco Chronicle
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