Flyers coach John Stevens insists there's no goalie controversy, insists he's playing Antero Niittymaki tomorow as a reward for his fairly strong performance in San Jose Saturday.
But just the fact that he said he expects Marty Biron to "carry a lot of the load" this season suggests that Nitty is going to get more starts than anyone could have expected.
Biron, of course, was brilliant in the first two playoff series last season _ and was the main reason the Flyers advanced to the conference finals.
But he has gotten off to a shaky start in three games this year. So far, Nitty has been the sharper goalie.
“It’s always fun when you get the call, especially back-to-back games,” Niittymaki said after today's practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, Camden County. “It probably means that you’ve been doing something right.”
Biron is 0-3 with a 5.74 goals-against average and a dismal .824 save percentage. (But it says here he deserves a chance to straighten himself out. If the Flyers are going to be a major player in the playoffs _ I know, I know, it'd be nice if they won a game first _ they need to ride Biron.)
Niittymaki (2.84 GAA) has played well, though he did allow a bad rebound leading to a late San Jose goal that tied the score Saturday and keyed the Sharks’ 5-4 overtime win.
In a game that was played mostly in the Flyers’ defensive end, Niittymaki made 40 saves.
“I just felt he really earned us a point with his play and, with any player on your team, I think you reward that,” Stevens said. “There’s really nothing more than that. Marty’s going to get back in net this weekend, and I expect him to carry a lot of the load this year and do good things for us.”
Stevens was asked if one of the goalies would play most of the games if he went on a hot streak.
“At this point, we need to worry about winning our first game; that’s really my focus right now,” Stevens said. “I just felt like Nitty made some goal-saving saves and made a lot of saves on effort (Saturday) and I just feel you reward that type of effort and give him a chance to win the game this time.”
The Flyers (0-3-2) play three games in the next four nights, including Friday night in New Jersey and Saturday at 4 p.m. against the Devils at the Wachovia Center.
“We’re going to need both of our goalies to play and play well,” Stevens said.
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Here's how the lines are expected to look tomorrow against San Jose (5-1):
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Oddity Dept.: The Flyers haven't received a goal from a RW all season.
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Will the Sarah Palin Curse end tomorrow night?