Nitty starting; Cote re-injured; 412 hats salute Carter

    OTTAWA _ Just talked to Flyers coach John Stevens and he said goalie Antero Niittymaki will start tonight in Ottawa.

    Marty Biron had been shaky in the two previous games, both against Toronto.

    Niittymaki has not fared well against Ottawa this season. Before tonight, he was 1-2 with a 4.02 GAA and .824 save percentage against the Senators this season.

    Stevens also said LW Riley Cote re-injured himself in Friday's 8-5 win over Toronto and did not make the trip to Ottawa. Andreas Nodl will take his spot.

    The Flyers can clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight.

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  In Sunday's Inquirer, I'll take a look at some of the potential free-agent goalies who may interest the Flyers if they do not resign Biron. Biron and Niittymaki can both become unrestricted free agents and it's doubtful the Flyers will sign both of them.

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   With Friday's wild victory over Toronto, the Flyers moved to within one win of clinching an Eastern Conference playoff spot. That's the good news.

   The bad news: The Flyers allowed too many scoring chances, and Biron had one of his worst games in the last six weeks.

    But, considering that the Flyers had lost three of their previous four games, they'll take the win and try to build off it. They moved back into fourth place in the East, ahead of Carolina.

    It'll be interesting to see how they respond in Ottawa Saturday night. The Flyers are 1-2 against the lowly Senators this season.

     Jeff Carter notched his first career hat trick to highlight last night's win. But my favorite stat, courtesy of PR guru Ike Richman, was this: 412 hats were thrown onto the ice after Carter's third goal.

     The Flyers, answering a challenge issued by GM Paul Holmgren the previous day, built a 5-0 lead in the opening 20 minutes.

    “The first period was great. I think we did all the things that we wanted to do, and then I don’t know," Carter said. "It’s definitely not the way we need to be playing in the last two periods, and we were lucky enough to get away with two points.”

   In the second period. "we gave them some chances and kind of got into a little bit of a track meet," Carter said, "but we got two points and that’s what we need right now.”

    There were unconfirmed reports last year that Carter would have been dealt to the Leafs if Tomas Kaberle had agreed to a deal at the trade deadline.

    “I’m glad he didn’t," Carter said.

    Many of the Flyers' top players were verbally scolded by Holmgren on Thursday.

    "Tell me one team in the league that’s going to win when their best players aren’t their best players,"Stevens said. "It just doesn’t happen. Take (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg off Detroit, or they don’t play well, they don’t win. Our top two lines have carried us all year. Richie (Mike Richards) and Carts’ (Jeff Carter) line, they have been together most of the year. We have had a variety of third and fourth lines all year. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, and the guys they play with are responsible for us and the position we are in. They have a lot of responsibility; they deserve a lot of the credit. Sometimes when we stumble the finger points at them because they have done so many good things this year, but I’d put those guys on my team this time of year any day.”