Niittymaki back in goal _ for now

     More than four months after their season opener, the Flyers' goalie situation seems more unsettled than ever.

     Will the goalie down the stretch be Marty Biron? Antero Niittymaki? A goalie who will be acquired by the March 4 trade deadline?

     We shall see.

     In the next two games, Niittymaki and Biron will each get a start. Beyond that, it's anybody's guess.

     On Tuesday night in Washington, Niittymaki will return to the net for the first time since Feb. 12.

    Niittymaki, 28, recently became the Flyers’ go-to goalie before he suffered the flu and was replaced by Marty Biron, who won three straight before Saturday’s late-game disaster in a 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh.

     So tonight Niittymaki will get a chance to regain the form he displayed while playing in eight of nine games recently. Biron will play Wednesday against the visiting Los Angeles Kings.

     Down the stretch, “we need both of our goalies to play great,” coach John Stevens said. “They’re both going to get an opportunity to get in the net.”

   In other words, it sounds as if there’s still time for a goalie to get hot and get a majority of the playing time.

    There are a little less than seven weeks left in the regular season. That means Stevens probably has about a month to determine who is going to be his No. 1 goalie _ and let him carry the load for the final three weeks so he can be sharp for the playoffs.

    Niittymaki was brilliant in his only appearance against Washington this season, making 47 saves _ 25 in the first period _ as the Flyers defeated the Capitals, 7-1, on Dec. 20.

Two of the NHL’s top goal scorers _ the Caps’ Alex Ovechkin and the Flyers’ Jeff

Carter _ are scheduled to meet Tuesday. That is, if Carter recovers from flu-like symptoms that caused him to leave practice early on Monday.

     Ovechkin leads the league with 43 goals; the Caps are 35-2-1 in games in which he has scored.

    Carter is third in the NHL with 34 goals, but is goal-less in his last five games, his longest drought of the season.

      Stevens, who said he expects Carter to play Tuesday, may have wingers Joffrey Lupul and Scottie Upshall switch lines. At Monday’s practice, Upshall was with Carter and Scott Hartnell, while Lupul was with Claude Giroux and Darroll Powe.

   Breakaways. Mike Richards, who has a total of eight points in his last two games, was named the NHL's No. 1 star of the week.....The Flyers' power play is 1 for 14 in its last five games.....The Flyers are 1-0-1 against the Caps this season. In the teams' last meeting, the Flyers dropped a 2-1 shootout on Jan. 6 in Washington, a game in which Biron made 33 saves. The Flyers moved into a first-place tie with the Rangers that night....The Flyers announced they will not raise ticket prices in 2009-10

_ Sam Carchidi