GAME: Philadelphia Flyers (29-12-11-5) at New York Rangers (21-24-7-4).
TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
The NHL has not seemed too tough for rookie goaltender Antero Niittymaki
thus far. He'll get to watch his first game from the bench when the
Philadlephia Flyers visit the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Recalled from the minors to help fill in for a pair of injured goalies, the
23-year-old Niittymaki won his first three NHL starts, yielding just three
goals in the process.
Niittymaki, 23, was playing with the Philadelphia Phantoms of the AHL when
Jeff Hackett (vertigo) and Robert Esche (knee) went down for the Flyers.
Unexpectedly forced into action, Niittymaki hasn't blinked at the pressure of
starting in the NHL.
On Tuesday, he outplayed New Jersey's Martin Brodeur, making 35 saves as the
Flyers beat the defending Stanley Cup champions 4-1, increasing their lead in
the Atlantic Division to seven points over the Devils.
Despite his fast start, Niittymaki's playing time will likely decrease
because Philadelphia acquired veteran goalie Sean Burke from Phoenix on Monday
to step in until Esche returns from his knee injury. Burke will start against
the Rangers on Thursday, and Esche appears to be closer to returning than
"I don't know what's going to happen," Niittymaki said. "It's been fun."
The rookie's efforts have not gone unnoticed by Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock,
who indicated that Niittymaki will see more action before being sent down.
"What this is telling us and the world is that the future of goaltending is
very good in Philadelphia," Hitchcock said.
Burke has also picked up on the rookie's fast start.
"He's done a great job and made a great impression, and worked extremely
hard in the couple days that I've been here," Burke said. "I know he's pretty
confident right now and that's great. We need all of the wins we can get,
however we do it or whoever does it."
The Flyers have won seven of their last nine games (7-1-1).
The Rangers picked up a big win in their return from the All-Star break
Wednesday, beating the rival Devils 3-1. New York, which hadn't posted a
regulation win over New Jersey in nearly three years, got 28 saves from Mike
Dunham for its second win in three games.
Dunham, battling to keep his job in a season where the Rangers are trying to
avoid a seventh straight non-playoff finish, was at his best in the final two
periods, when the Devils outshot New York 22-7.