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After long wait, Niittymaki gets his chance

Wednesday, 04.06.2011 / 4:13 PM / NHL Insider

By Curtis Zupke - NHL.com Correspondent

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After long wait, Niittymaki gets his chance
Antti Niemi string of 34 consecutive starts will come to an end tonight as backup Antero Niittymaki finally gets the call for the Sharks.
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Antti Niemi finally can exhale.

The San Jose Sharks goalie will get a breather Wednesday when the Sharks insert Antero Niittymaki into the lineup against Anaheim at Honda Center.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said it simply was time to get Niittymaki into a game as San Jose has just three regular-season games remaining. Niemi has started 34 consecutive games, while Niittymaki's last start was Jan.13.

"It's more than a long stretch," Niittymaki said. "It's been three months or something?"

Told the exact date, Niittymaki was even more surprised. His only other game action since then was 33 minutes in relief of Niemi on March 14 against Chicago.

How long will it take him to get comfortable after such a long time on the bench?

"We'll see," Niittymaki said. "Sometimes you feel right, you get a couple of saves and it feels great right away. Sometimes it might take you the first 10 minutes. (Hopefully) it doesn't take the whole 60 minutes."

Niittymaki said he has tried to simulate game situations in practice, such as 2-on-2 games down low, but with so much time off he has worked on all aspects of his game.

He will be asked to backstop his club against a Ducks team that is trying to nail down a postseason berth. San Jose already has clinched the Pacific Division and would like to secure the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.

Said Niittymaki, "Hopefully I can do good."

Clowe out, Nichol ready -- Ryane Clowe was ruled out of the lineup due to an upper-body injury suffered Monday.

"We're going to keep him out and try to get him healthy -- completely healthy," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said.

McLellan pronounced Scott Nichol ready and said he will play in two of the final three games. Nichol has been out since Feb.19 with an upper-body injury.

Hiller still out -- Jonas Hiller has been able to do more in practice but still is receiving treatment and Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle didn't really have an update on his No. 1 goalie.

"To say that he's making progress, I'd say yes," Carlyle said. "But the degree of progress? I can't give you an answer on that."

Hiller is trying to recover from vertigo, which has kept him out of the lineup for all but three games since the All-Star break. He started against Nashville on March 24 and was pulled after he allowed three goals on nine shots.

Ray Emery has received the majority of the starts lately and was first off the ice at Anaheim's morning skate.

The longer Hiller remains out the more the Ducks must weigh whether it would be appropriate to put him in a playoff situation.

"If you did and it worked, you'd be a genius, and if you did it and it didn't work, they would question it," Carlyle said.

"He's our No. 1 goaltender (but) he hasn't played in two months. I think at any time that you have that depth in your lineup, if he says to you he's ready, I think you have to use strong consideration on the right time to put him in the net."

Reality show -- A contingent of Finnish media has descended on Anaheim to follow Teemu Selanne this week, and he came up with the line of the day when asked what it was like being followed around by a television crew everywhere.

"I feel like Kim Kardashian," Selanne said.
Quote of the Day

I'm just excited about the opportunity. I've been on the ice earlier than usual and in the weight room, pushing around a little more weights than usual. Every day I go into a workout with a smile on my face and ready to go. When you do have a little more responsibility, you want to take your lunch pail and get ready to work.

— Brian Elliott to Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch on being the Blues' No. 1 goalie