Hawk Talk: Sharks going with Niemi or Nittymaki?

Hawk Talk: Sharks going with Niemi or Nittymaki?

Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010
7:24 PM
By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Day 7

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- One of my favorite movies of all time is Vertigo, which was shot about 50 miles west of here in San Francisco. Vertigo, in true Alfred Hitchcock style, had that wonderful air of mystery throughout the picture.

Here in the Silicon Valley, the only mystery we're trying to solve here is whether or not San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi is going to be the starter when the Sharks host the Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow night. For those who think it's just a big ol' slam dunk that Niemi will face his former teammates, the ones he celebrated that Stanley Cup victory with back in June, I'm not so sure. The Sharks don't seem to keen on talking history when it comes to the team that swept them from the postseason last year, and going down memory lane doesn't sound too high on coach Todd McLellan's list of interests either. His team is inconsistent, and getting steadiness and victories are his focus right now. So if it just comes down to that, do you go with Niemi, who has had struggles of his own, or Nittymaki who's been steadier?

Quick side note: Answering "who's starting" questions has to be quite a change for McLellan. In past seasons, it was basically all Evgeni Nabokov all the time.

Whatever decision McLellan makes, I wouldn't be a bit surprised. Niemi played great out here last postseason. He said he's felt good in recent practices and that he's getting his confidence back. This would certainly be a great bench test. Nittymaki's got the better record and overall stats.

Inside the Sharks' locker room, decisions have already been made. The rest of us will just have to wait until Wednesday morning to end the mystery.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

When Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman addressed the media on Saturday, he said that there would be change. That started on Monday when assistant coach Mike Kitchen was fired.

The move came five days after the Blackhawks were swept out of the first round by the Nashville Predators. Bowman said in a statement that, “we believe this decision is best for our organization moving forward. Mike had an impact on two different Stanley Cup championship teams during his tenure in Chicago. We appreciate his many contributions and wish he and his family success in the future.”

Kitchen has been a member of coach Joel Quenneville’s staff since 2010. The two go back to their playing days, however, when they were teammates with the Colorado Rockies and also the New Jersey Devils. Kitchen was Quenneville’s assistant when the two were with the St. Louis Blues and when Quenneville was fired as Blues coach midway through the 2003-04 season, Kitchen was promoted to head coach.

As part of the Blackhawks’ staff Kitchen’s focus on special teams, mainly the penalty kill. That kill finished the regular season 24th overall in the league, although that has to come with an asterisk. The penalty kill started the 2016-17 season so poorly that it was never going to get too far out of the basement. It did get stronger as the season wore on, and it was fourth overall during the Blackhawks’ short stay in the playoffs.

Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

The Blackhawks' season ended much sooner than expected after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Nashville Predators.

But for some players, their hockey season may not be finished yet.

The IIHF World Championships begin May 5, and an early postseason exit gives several Blackhawks an opportunity to play in the tournament.

With the National Hockey League saying it will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics, players may be more inclined to join given the uncertainty of when they'll be able to represent their countries again — if ever, for some.

Here's an update on which Blackhawks players could be participating:

— Patrick Kane said Saturday he's taking the weekend to mull over Team USA's offer, and will make a final decision in the next "day or two."

— Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews each declined their invites from Team Canada, electing to use a lengthy offseason to recharge and focus on training for the 2017-18 NHL season.

— Corey Crawford and Nick Schmaltz said they have not been contacted by their respective countries, but both said they would consider going if they are.

— Artemi Panarin has reportedly already accepted Team Russia's offer to play.

— Niklas Hjalmarsson said he's "thinking about" Team Sweden's offer after the NHL's decision not to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics. "Who knows when I'll ever get a chance to play for my country again, so that might be factor," he said.

— Marcus Kruger said he's talking with Team Sweden officials, and has expressed interest in going.

— Marian Hossa said he informed Team Slovakia that he will not be playing: "Let the young guys play."

— Richard Panik will not be participating either, saying he doesn't want to risk injury as he seeks a new contract.