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At the Rink blog

Sharks recall Niittymaki off conditioning assignment

Friday, 12.23.2011 / 4:54 PM

By Eric Gilmore - NHL.com Correspondent / At the Rink blog

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At the Rink blog
Sharks recall Niittymaki off conditioning assignment
SAN JOSE -- Antero Niittymaki was recalled Friday from Worcester of the AHL after his three-game conditioning assignment, giving the Sharks three goaltenders on their active roster.

Niittymaki joins No. 1 goaltender Antti Niemi and Thomas Greiss, who has been the backup this season while Niittymaki recovered from offseason hip surgery.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said the team's immediate plan is to have Niemi start Friday night against Los Angeles with Greiss as his backup in the team's final game before its two-day Christmas break.

"After Christmas we'll have to sit down as an organization and determine which direction we're going," McLellan said. "Our schedule is not going to be friendly January through April, and we will need two, maybe three goaltenders at that point. It's a luxury to have right now, that depth at that position, and we'll manage it as we move forward."

Trading Niittymaki or Greiss is one obvious option if the Sharks decide they can't afford the luxury of carrying three goaltenders.

Niittymaki went 1-2 with a 3.38 goals against average and an .878 save percentage with Worcester. More importantly, his hip passed that physical test.

"I'm ready," Niittymaki said after the Sharks' optional morning skate. "I feel good. The hip feels good. A couple of those games were good tests. A lot of post-to-post stuff. Hip held up pretty good. That's why I went there, to see how it feels and get a couple games. I'm happy how it went."

Niittymaki signed with the Sharks as a free agent on July 1, 2010, and was expected to be their No. 1 goaltender last season. But they signed Niemi that September, and the two goaltenders shared the job early in the season. But after Niittymaki was sidelined by a lingering lower-body injury, Niemi grabbed the starting job and earned a four-year contract extension. Niittymaki is in the final year of his contract, while Greiss re-signed this season for two years after playing last season in the Swedish Elite League.

"It's a good problem to have, much like having eight defensemen," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said Wednesday, looking ahead to Niittymaki's return. "You can go from eight defensemen down to five pretty quickly, and you can go from three goalies down to one pretty quickly."
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