Joining contender worth sharing the net
PHILADELPHIA -- At this stage of his career, Sean Burke is more concerned with winning than with playing time.
Burke went from a non-contender to the top team in the Eastern Conference when the Philadelphia Flyers acquired the veteran goaltender in a four-player trade Monday.
The 37-year-old will step in as Philadelphia's starter until Robert Esche returns from a knee injury that could sideline him up to another four weeks. Rookie Antero Niittymaki started Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils. He stopped 35 shots in the Flyers' 4-1 win.
"The only thing I am interested in is winning," Burke said before Tuesday's game. "The term No. 1 guy or starter is whoever is playing that night. Esche has done a great job for this team."
The Flyers began looking for a goaltender after Jeff Hackett was diagnosed with vertigo and Esche sprained his knee last week. That left Philadelphia with 23-year-old Niittymaki and no veteran backup.
Hackett, who began the season as the No. 1 goalie, retired Monday. He was 1-8-2 in his last 11 starts.
Esche, who played with Burke in Phoenix, is 16-6-5 with a 1.91 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. Burke was 10-15-5 with 2.81 goals-against average for the Coyotes. The two have a close relationship.
"For me to play with Esche is a great situation," Burke said. "We both want to see each other do well. We take the attitude that we are the best tandem in the league together, whoever is playing at the time."
Burke played briefly with the Flyers in 1998 but wasn't brought back after Philly failed to get past the first round of the playoffs.
"I was very disappointed the first time I was here when we went out in the first round," Burke said. "I am a better goaltender now."
Burke has a 298-316-99 record, 2.97 goals-against, .902 save percentage and 34 shutouts in 16 seasons. However, he hasn't won a playoff series since his rookie year with the Devils.
In addition to Burke, the Flyers acquired right wing Branko Radivojevic and the rights to left wing Ben Eager, an unsigned minor-leaguer selected 23rd overall in the 2002 draft. Center Mike Comrie went to Phoenix.
Radivojevic didn't play against New Jersey.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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