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Esche to Start Saturday Against Penguins

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers

Voorhees, NJ – Flyers goaltender Robert Esche will return to the lineup on Saturday and will start in net against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"They asked me today if I wanted to play tomorrow and I said of course. It was that simple," said Esche.

"I'm pretty excited about it, but I don't want to get too excited. I don't want to get too pumped up. When you get too pumped up because you haven't played in a while, you'll end up diving at a puck while someone holds onto it and puts it into and empty net. I want to make sure I'm patient, calm, relaxed and play well."

Esche, who turns 28 on Sunday, has missed much of this season with a groin injury and has watched as goaltender Antero Niittymaki has established himself as a solid NHL goaltender. Niittymaki has started the last 17 straight games for the Flyers.

"Antero is definitely entitled to play a lot of games from here on out. He's basically bailed me and the team out during my injury," said Esche.

Niittymaki welcomed the return of his partner.

"It's good to have him back. It's good to have two good goalies who can both play. It's a little competition and I think it helps both of us," said Niittymaki.

The Finland native, who was recently named to the Olympic team, is also looking forward to a day off.

"A couple days off will give me a chance to think about what's going on, about what I've been doing right and wrong," said Niittymaki. "It gives you a chance to think clearly. I'll get a chance to see some tapes of how I've played, which will help a lot."

Jamie Storr was reassigned to the Phantoms to make room for Esche.

Johnsson Skips Flight to Pittsburgh; Forsberg Still Out

Defenseman Kim Johnsson did not make the flight to Pittsburgh as the Flyers prepare for their Saturday afternoon game against the Penguins at Mellon Arena (2:00 p.m., NBC).

Ken Hitchcock explained:

"He has a pretty bad headache, so we asked him to go to the doctors, and he went there, and the concussion tests were negative but he's getting a CAT scan right now just to make sure that there's no issues there. We're going to leave him at home to do those tests and if he tests clean then he'll join us in Pittsburgh later [Friday]."

Also, Peter Forsberg will miss his second consecutive game.
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