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Niittymaki Ready for Action

by Joe Siville / Philadelphia Flyers
Also: Upshall practices with team full contact


Upshall talks about his timetable to return; Stevens discusses Niittymaki: Video


(Voorhees, NJ) – The morning skate at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone provided for many story lines for the Atlantic Division-leading Flyers as they prepare to head down to Florida to begin an eight-game road swing.

After a 6-1-0 start and a sweep of their four-game homestand, the Flyers now face another long road trip, but this time they start off playing three games in a span of four days. For the first time this season, Antero Niittymaki is expected to see game action and is scheduled to make his debut on Thursday night at Tampa Bay.

“It’s our first situation where we have back-to-backs on the road. We knew before we would get [Niittymaki] in that little stretch and give him a chance to play,” said Head Coach John Stevens. “I’ve liked Niitty in practice, he’s worked extremely hard, and his intensity has been maintained at a high level for a long stretch now, and he’s been great. I think you’re going to see a very good outing by him.”

“Yes, it’s been a while since I played my last game. The team has been playing great,” said Niittymaki, while also commenting on trying to stay sharp and mentally ready on the ice. “You just try to work hard and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

One person in particular knows exactly how tough the task is for Niittymaki.  For the past two seasons in Buffalo, Martin Biron was in a similar situation with fellow goaltender Ryan Miller. Both were fully capable starting goaltenders, both were playing well and both were sharing ice time.

“Its extremely difficult, and what helped me a lot was the support of everyone in the locker room when I was in Buffalo,” said Biron. “Guys really wanted to help me out, wanted to make sure that I was ready, they were helping me on the ice and got me involved into everything.”

It’s that same support that the Flyers have shown throughout the entire preseason and regular season thus far, so it should be of no surprise that the rest of the team feels just as confident in net as Stevens and Biron do.
Scottie Upshall practiced for the first time on Monday since fracturing his left wrist in a preseason game. (Getty Images)

“I’ve been very impressed with his attitude,” said Danny Briere. “He never complains. He always works hard in practices. I know it’s been tough for him [Niittymaki] but I think if you ask anybody in the room, most guys will tell you they’ve been impressed with his attitude. 

On the other side of the locker room, another Flyer took his first steps in contributing on the ice for the team.  Scottie Upshall began full contact practice today for the first time after spending the previous four weeks sidelined with a fractured left wrist.

Upshall rejoined the team in practice and took part in various drills, most of which involved stick handling. Making significant strides in recovery, he is currently ahead of schedule and expects to be out of the line up for only another 10 days, which would make his regular season debut November 1 at Montreal.  Contributing in other ways off the ice, Upshall is admittedly anxious to begin contributing to the team on the ice.

“The team’s been playing great and I’m hoping I can step in the lineup and contribute and help this team in some way, and carry on the success we’ve been having the last few weeks.”

“He’s shooting the puck well and he’s really getting a lot closer,” said Stevens. “It’s great to see him get so healthy so quickly and they’re [Upshall’s surgeons] very happy with the progress that’s going on there.”

FLYERS NOTES
Ben Eager practiced with the squad again today after missing the last three games due to dizziness… Biron was named the NHL’s First Star of the week after going 3-0-0, posting two shutouts and a 0.66 goals-against average, .982 save percentage with wins over Atlanta, New Jersey and Carolina.
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