Friend turned foe: Niemi blanks Hawks

November, 24, 2011
11/24/11
1:25
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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SAN JOSE -- You’ll excuse the Chicago Blackhawks if they were feeling a bit of deja vu after their 1-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday.

They’ve seen the goalie that shut them out -- former Hawk Antti Niemi -- do it to many an opponent on his way to helping the Hawks to a Stanley Cup in 2010. He was fantastic.

“He stood on his head,” Bryan Bickell said afterwards.

[+] EnlargeAntti Niemi
Kelley L Cox/US PresswireAntti Niemi stopped all 34 shots he faced Wednesday.

Bickell had one of the best chances on the night. A breakaway in the first period.

“The puck was bouncing,” he said. “I went to the blocker side and he got a piece of it.”

Maybe Niemi knew what was coming. He’s played well against the Hawks since leaving via free-agency after winning the Cup.

“They came hard and fast,” Niemi said. “A couple of times maybe I recognized who was coming and maybe you know who’s shooting and what they can do.”

Before Bickell, there was the breakaway by Marian Hossa that missed then a power-play chance by Jonathan Toews near the slot.

“[He] was real good today especially that one save on Toews,” Niemi’s buddy Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “He stretched out his leg.”

He made that save and 33 others in earning his 14th career shutout. He had seven with the Hawks and now seven with the Sharks.

“He’s the reason we got two points tonight,” Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. “He played great. For whatever reason, he likes playing against his old team … A couple of his saves were spectacular.”

Slappers

• Wednesday’s loss marked the first time the Hawks have gone three consecutive games without earning at least a point.

• Coming off a minus-8 weekend, Duncan Keith had six shots on net to go along with three blocked shots and 29:18 of ice time.

• With a power-play goal given up on four chances to San Jose the Hawks dropped to last in the league in penalty killing. They have a success rate of just 73.5 percent, just below Columbus who’s at 73.6 percent. As recent as November 6, the Hawks were ranked fourth in the league in killing penalties.

Quotable

“It just hit me and bounced three feet in the air, so tough on Crawford to react to. Kind of a crappy bounce.”- Jonathan Toews on the point shot that turned into the winning goal.

Jesse Rogers | email

Chicago Cubs beat reporter
Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers the Chicago Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Sharp
PTS GOALS AST +/-
78 34 44 13
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Sharp 34
AssistsD. Keith 55
+/-M. Hossa 28
GAAC. Crawford 2.26