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Common Goal

by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers
Biron, Niittymaki forming solid relationship

(Denver, CO) – Martin Biron knows the feeling.

Following Antero Niittymaki’s impressive 28-save performance in Wednesday night’s 3-1 win in Minnesota, Biron, himself a number two goalie for many years in Buffalo, was asked if his game can benefit from getting pushed by a solid performance from his backup.

Biron quickly responded that he doesn’t look at it that way; rather, a strong game from Niittymaki helps the entire team gain momentum.

“When I played a game [as the backup] and I got a big win and I got the team going, it didn’t put pressure on anybody. It just got momentum going,” explained Biron in the lobby of the team hotel in Colorado on Thursday afternoon. “Everybody felt good and knew that they were accomplishing something.
Antero Niittymaki made 28 saves in the Flyers' 3-1 win in Minnesota on Wednesday. (Getty Images)

“The way we played yesterday and the way Niitty played yesterday really helped everybody get on the right foot and go into tomorrow night’s game feeling good about the way we played and what we need to do to win. It doesn’t change what I have to do to win the game, but it definitely helps making everybody feel so much more comfortable.”

Being the goaltender that doesn’t get the majority of the playing time can be difficult at times, especially when that goaltender is playing well like Niittymaki is. Fortunately, Biron and Niittymaki have been building a solid foundation and friendship since Biron’s arrival last season.

That rapport between the two is key not just for the goaltenders themselves, but for the team as a whole.

“You can never have a successful team or goalie without that relationship being good,” said Biron. “I found that out playing in Buffalo and being in the ‘two’ role. Niitty and I get along extremely well and work extremely well together.

“When I was playing behind Ryan [Miller] in Buffalo and getting a chance to play and play well, it was for the team first and myself second. It wasn’t for me to try to make a push or put pressure on the other guy. That’s really not what you’re hoping to do.”

John Stevens remembers his days coaching Niittymaki with the Phantoms, when the goaltender and then-backup Neil Little were close friends. The team ended up winning the Calder Cup that season in 2005.

“I think Niitty and Marty have a really good relationship,” said Stevens. “They root for each other when the other guy is in net and have real strong team values. They are both competitive guys and want to play well for their team. I think it’s important for us to have two goalies playing well.”

The momentum built by Niittymaki’s performance will hopefully carry over for the Flyers into Friday night’s game with the Avalanche (9:00 p.m., CW-57). Philadelphia has alternated wins and losses for the last eight games, and is 8-6-2 since the start of November.

Biron will be trying to rebound from his last outing: a 4-1 loss at home to Dallas in which the entire team struggled.

“Every time he’s not his best he’s bounced back and been really good,” said Stevens, who added that many times Biron’s losses are not entirely his fault, by saying, “the impact on his game has a little bit to do with the way we play, as well.”

Now, Biron will just try and continue the momentum that Niittymaki built with the victory in Minnesota as Philadelphia will try for consecutive victories for the first time since November 10-12.
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