(Voorhees, NJ) – Flyers goaltender Antero Niittymaki will make his second straight start in net when Philadelphia hosts the San Jose Sharks at the Wachovia Center on Wednesday night (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).
The Finland native has gotten off to a strong start this season despite losing his first two starts in overtime. On Saturday night in San Jose he made 40 saves, many of them spectacular. In fact, his glove save on Jonathan Cheechoo was named as the top save of the week by NHL.com.
(For the video of the Top 10 saves of the week, click here
Head coach John Stevens decided to give Niittymaki another chance to beat the Sharks in front of the home fans as Philadelphia searches for its first win of the young season.
“I just felt that he really earned us a point there with his play,” said Stevens after practice on Tuesday. “Niitty made some goal-saving saves in that [San Jose] game and made a lot of saves on effort and I just feel like you reward that kind of effort and give him a chance to win the game this time.”
“It’s always fun when you get the call, especially back-to-back games,” added Niittymaki. “It probably means you’ve been doing something right, and hopefully I can keep going.”
Niittymaki almost wasn’t able to start the season in time, getting surgery on his hip forcing him to miss virtually all of training camp. Although some may be surprised by his early success under those conditions, the goaltender himself is not.
“I’ve been feeling good all around all summer long,” he said. “It looks like it’s working right now, and hopefully I can keep playing at a good level.”
The Flyers will most certainly need another strong effort from him if they are going to beat the Western Conference-leading Sharks. San Jose has won five of its first six games and looks like it will be a contender for the Stanley Cup once again. The Flyers are trying to get that status back as well after stumbling out of the gates to an 0-3-2 mark.
The team had a couple of long days at its practice facility with the goal of quickly turning things around. On Monday an hour-long skate was followed by a dry-land session, and on Tuesday, many players remained on the ice well past the standard 60 minutes.
Meetings and conversations between the players and their coaches were also sprinkled in, and Stevens likes what he has seen from the group.
“We felt it was an important couple of days for us to get the opportunity to just meet and go over a lot of things and then bring it on the ice,” he said. “I thought the work the last couple days was tremendous.”
Mike Richards, in his first season as captain, is getting an early lesson in how to handle adversity.
“It’s a little bit earlier than I would have liked, but I think it pulls a team together and makes you come together a little bit quicker,” he said. “It’s going to make that first [win] that much more special, I think.
“I feel we’ve played well enough to win hockey games, we just haven’t. If we keep working hard and we keep playing hard things are going to come. We’re going to get some bounces and sooner than later win a hockey game.”
He also commented on what it is like to be at the forefront of a tough stretch.
“There’s a little bit more pressure than normal; more frustration,” he said. “You want to do so much, [but] you have to control yourself, try and relax and play the game instead of try to do too much, keep everybody positive and make sure nobody is down.”
The Flyers recalled right wing Andreas Nodl from the Phantoms on Tuesday morning. The 21-year-old Austria native will debut Wednesday night on a line with Scottie Upshall and Jeff Carter.
Nodl, a second-round draft pick from 2006, was one of the last cuts from the opening night roster after an impressive training camp.
“He’s a kid that plays with a lot of confidence and composure for a young player,” said Stevens. “He makes strong plays with the puck, he reads things in his own end, he’s a good skater, is strong on the puck, he battles on the wall and he can get the puck and make support plays coming up the ice. He’s a kind you can see playing on your top three lines because he’s got the skill level to do so.”
Nodl would obviously like to stick around for more than a couple games, and thinks the opportunity is there by playing with two good linemates.
“I’m playing with two good guys in Carter and Upshall, so I definitely have to do something or I’ll get sent down again,” he said. “I just have to take nothing for granted and see what happens.”