(photo: Dinur Blum)
After playing three games out of seven match-ups on the road, the Sharks will be without goaltender, Alex Stalock for the remainder of this long road trip. Stalock was placed on injured reserve with a lower body injury Wednesday morning. Troy Grosenick has been recalled from the Sharks’ AHL team in Worcester to take Stalock’s place on the roster.
Stalock was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday, November 12th following the Sharks’ loss to the Florida Panthers. Stalock was slated to start against the Panthers, but was at the last-minute replaced by Antti Niemi. Stalock’s injury was sustained during San Jose’s comeback victory against the Dallas Stars on November 8th. He was involved in a confrontation by the net late in the third period when Stars’ left-winger Antoine Roussel took out his frustration on Stalock by shoving the netminder to the ice. Once Stalock hit the ice, he remained there for the duration of the scrum that took place after. He eventually got back up and finished the remainder of the game.
It was an odd sequence of events, starting with Stalock catching the puck, then tossing it up in the air like a baseball and attempting to bat it back into play. While Stalock’s attempt to hit a home run with the puck is unconventional and perhaps ill-advised, Roussel’s actions crossed the line. The Sharks immediately engaged in a brief altercation following the incident with Roussel which involved San Jose defenseman, Justin Braun. During the bout, Braun was surprised by a punch to the face from Roussel. The 200 pound left-winger then left the ice with two minutes for roughing plus a ten-minute misconduct. Roussel was later fined $5,376.34 by the NHL Department of Player Safety not for knocking down Stalock, but for “sucker-punching” Justin Braun.
Stalock was sent back to San Jose after the Sharks’ visit to Sunshine, Florida. It was announced on Thursday November 13th that Stalock would have minor knee surgery and be out 2-4 weeks. Antti Niemi made the start on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning with Grosenick as his backup. Grosenick has spent this season in Worcester and has a .908 save percentage with 2.73 GAA in 10 games played.
This is an unfortunate turn of events for the Sharks who have been up and down thus far on this road trip. The Sharks will be on the road for twelve days and would have benefited greatly from being able to rotate their goaltenders without having to compromise consistency. Now, with Stalock on the IR, Niemi will likely have a much heavier workload.
Stalock’s stint on the IR will be much longer than the Sharks’ would like, as he will need sufficient time to recover from his surgery. The 25-year old Grosenick will need to be ready to jump into games when he is needed, and maybe even make a few starts in order to give Niemi a break every once in awhile. The Sharks’ defense needs to be aware that they might have a tired goalie between the pipes and will need to be even more vigilant than usual to keep the puck from reaching Niemi.
Puck possession is always important, but for San Jose, it just became even more of a priority. The Sharks need to be able to maintain as much puck possession as possible, spend more time in their opponents zone than in their own. It’s going to be a long road trip for the Sharks, especially without Stalock. But the best they can do now is count on Niemi and Grosenick to step up, do what they can to become a defensive powerhouse and hope for a speedy recovery from Stalock.