SAN JOSE -- Three of the four Sharks competing in the Winter Olympics have been getting significant ice time, but the only saves that goalie Antti Niemi has made so far have come in Team Finland's practices.

Niemi tried Friday to hide any personal disappointment over his situation after Finland's 2-1 loss to Sweden, saying, "It seems that this is my role, so I'm trying to do what I can to help the team."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he isn't concerned that Niemi could come back bummed out by the experience.

"That's not how Nemo's wired," McLellan said. "I think he's honored to represent his country. Whether or not he gets into this last game, I don't know, but I can tell you he'll leave there very proud that he was on that team, and he will have relished every moment he had there."

There is a remote chance Niemi could play in Saturday's bronze-medal game against Team USA. Starter Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins was ill Friday and could not play; backup Kari Lehtonen of the Dallas Stars would be playing on consecutive nights after giving up a soft goal in the 2-1 loss to Sweden.

Even if Niemi doesn't play, McLellan noted, other high-end goalies such as Phoenix Coyote Mike Smith on Team Canada and Detroit Red Wing Jimmy Howard on Team USA are in the same boat. And the Sharks coach sees Niemi benefiting from the trip to Russia, travel and all.

"I know Nemo's worked on his game," McLellan said. "I know he's been able to see pucks and stay fresh and enjoy the opportunity while some of the other elite goalies were back here not seeing pucks, not staying fresh and not staying up on their games. Maybe he's ahead of them."

But Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle knows what it's like be on an Olympic roster without getting to play, as he was on the taxi squad for Team Canada in 2006 before competing four years later in Vancouver. And he was hoping Niemi would get to play Saturday.

"It was very tough," Boyle said of his own experience in Torino, Italy. "I would certainly not want to do that again. You have to put your personal feelings aside for your country, but it's still tough to watch."

As for the other Sharks in Sochi, Patrick Marleau (four assists, 15:10 average ice time) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (no points, 15:51 ice time) will be in the lineup when Canada faces Sweden for the gold medal on Sunday. Joe Pavelski (one goal, four assists, 15:45 ice time) will be in Team USA's lineup Saturday against Finland.

  • The Sharks delayed the start of their Saturday practice so players and coaches could watch what turned out to be Canada's 1-0 victory over Team USA in the Olympic semifinals. And, yes, there was some back-and-forth between the Canadians and those from the States.

    "For the most part, I thought we were fairly respectful -- we have a teammate on the other side," said Boyle, who grew up in Ottawa and was referring to Pavelski.

    Minnesota native Justin Braun acknowledged it wasn't too bad but attributed that to the fact the game was close and not a blowout.

    There was a divide on the coaching staff as well with another Minnesota native, Jim Johnson, showing the colors with an American flag.

    Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy contributed to this report. For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/PollakOnSharks.

    THURSDAY'S GAME
    Sharks (37-16-6)
    at Philadelphia (30-23-6),
    4 p.m. CSNCA

    McLellan
    Says goalie will benefit from Olympic experience.