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Camp kicks off
Niemi headlines notable newbies
9/19/10 - By Mike Lee -

Sharks fans got the first look at the 2010-11 version of the roster over the weekend, with the opening of training camp at Sharks Ice. 53 players are vying for 23 spots over the next two weeks before the club boards a plane for Europe to play in an exhibition game in Germany and two season opening contests against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Sweden.

The team spent the first two days of camp focusing on implementing new schemes into their repertoire and familiarizing themselves with new faces up and down the roster. The most notable additions were perched on opposite ends of the rink, decked out in goaltending gear that was a subtle reminder of last season’s conference finals.

Antti Niemi, the Sharks surprise signing a few weeks ago, was equipped with his Blackhawks helmet and pads in the practice sessions and scrimmage on Sunday morning. Even his stick was trimmed in red, which clashed with the teal and black Sharks crest on his jersey. Mae no mistake though, Niemi’s allegiance is with San Jose after Chicago cast him to the wind following an arbitration loss last Summer.

Niemi’s Stanley Cup winning performance last spring doesn’t necessarily mean the starting goaltending job is his though. Antero Nittymaki was inked to a two-year deal before Niemi became available and he’ll have something to say about the starting role in net.

Niemi is being treated like the starter after only two camp sessions, but Nittymaki will get his chance to take back the spot that he assumed was his only few weeks ago.

Thomas Greiss seems to be the odd man out with this whole situation. Greiss was dressed and on the ice Sunday, but his opportunities were limited.

Outside the pipes, Jamal Mayers took to the ice this weekend and made it clear that he’s a veteran with a few games under his belt. What’s the most surprising about Mayers is his size. A few years removed from his days as a St Louis Blues forward, the veteran has bulked up and will log minutes on the Sharks 4th line.

Mayers played on a line with another energy guy in Scott Nichol on Sunday. Nichol was flanked by Frazer McLaren on the left side, which creates an interesting trio on that 4th line. Both McLaren and Mayers can push people around and use their fists to keep opposing players in line. Throw in the scrappy Nichol between them and you have the making of a rough and tumble line that could easily become a fan favorite this season.

Questions on the blueline still abound, but Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson may have addressed things by bringing Andreas Lilja to camp on a tryout basis. Lilja has some catching up to do, given his late invitation, but his past experience with McLellan in Detroit should ease things a bit for the 35-year old defenseman.

In the Sunday scrimmage, Team A defeated Team B 3-2 on goals by Devin Setoguchi, Joe Thornton and Derek Joslin. Torrey Mitchell appears headed in the right direction after battling injuries the last two years. A broken leg sustained in a training camp scrimmage in 2008 set Mitchell’s promising career development back significantly. He was all over the ice on Sunday, skating on Logan Couture’s right side. Mitchell, Couture and Jamie McGinn form a young blood line that will serve to inject some energy in the Sharks offense this season.

Team B’s top line of Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Dany Heatley provided all that squad’s offense in the Sunday scrimmage.

Several prospects made their mark on Sunday, including right winger Tommy Wingels, who looked good on the ice. Defenseman Joe Loprieno also saw lots of action for Team A.

The scrimmage was stopped briefly, to attend to Kent Huskins, who was cut below the left eye from what appeared to be an errant Joe Thornton stick. Huskins left the ice with a towel soaking up the blood extruding from the cut.

Prospect Reduction

The Sharks thinned out the locker room clutter last Friday by reassigning or releasing 14 prospects. Cameron Brodie and Leigh Salters were assigned to Worcester, while goaltender Thomas Heemskerk was sent back to Everett of the WHL. Marek Viedensky, a 2009 7th rund pick was sent back to Saskatoon.

Four more players were returned to their junior clubs, including defensemen Konrad Abeltshauser (Halifax), Dominik Bielke (Berlin) and centerman Freddie Hamilton (Niagara) and Philip Varone (London).

Six tryout players including Cam Braes (Lethbridge), Spencer Edwards (Moose Jaw), Daniel Erlich ( London), Samuel Finn (Lewiston), Spencer Humphries (Tri-City), and Zach O’Brien (Acadie-Bathurst) were released.

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