Sharks goalie Antti Niemi showed up at training camp this season feeling better about his play than he did at the start of the last one.

Career-best stats recognition as a Vezina Trophy finalist and consideration for Team Finland in the 2014 Winter Olympics will do that for your self-esteem. But Niemi was very much aware that his play is only as good as what comes next.

Two starts into the exhibition season and the day after a 24-save shutout of the Vancouver Canucks his confidence is even higher.

"Getting 50-plus shots in two games giving up a couple goals -- not really bad goals -- of course you get the feeling you're more ready because you saw a couple games" Niemi said Wednesday. "I felt good before but even a little better now."

Niemi was last season's Most Valuable Shark and is being counted on for more of the same going forward. The only question in goal is which rookie -- Alex Stalock or Harri Sateri -- earns the backup spot now that Thomas Greiss is a Phoenix Coyote.

Coach Todd McLellan indicated Wednesday that may not be settled by opening day that he may go to a platoon system that keeps one prospect in San Jose while the other plays regularly in Worcester before the two switch places.

Part of that is because backups do need to play and Niemi is expected to carry a heavy load.

"I've probably said this 100 times he plays his best when he's working" McLellan said. "He's a workhorse. He wants to get out of the stall and work. We have to be aware of that but we also have to look at the overall picture."

That the overall picture includes a possible spot on Team Finland in the Sochi Winter Olympics is a testament to how far Niemi has progressed since the end of the 2011-12 season.

A year ago Niemi used the NHL lockout to his benefit taking the extra time off to allow injuries to heal and work on conditioning. He even brought his personal trainer from Finland to San Jose to supervise his on-ice workouts.

This summer it was more of the same though the trainer stayed home.

"Same stuff that we worked during the last season and during the lockout" Niemi said. "Basic stuff getting better doing certain movements on the ice. Still getting stronger."

The 6-foot-2 210-pound Niemi seems to have gotten more nimble each year. Does he feel he's a quicker goalie these days when it comes to getting from post to post or scrambling after a blocked shot?

"I don't know if quickness is the right thing but I think I move better on the ice" he said. "I think I'm more balanced."