Flyers to wait on Niittymaki before seeking subs

Updated: September 28, 2006, 9:10 AM ET
Associated Press

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Although the Philadelphia Flyers could be without goaltender Antero Niittymaki for up to two months, the team is in no hurry to acquire a proven NHL backup.

Niittymaki, who tore the labrum in his left hip during practice Tuesday morning, is awaiting results of tests and an examination to determine if surgery will be required.

The injury gives Robert Esche the chance to start most games in the early part of the season. Esche has played in 110 regular-season games since joining the Flyers in 2002.

On Wednesday, general manager Bob Clarke said he had been contacted by the Tampa Bay Lightning about goalie Sean Burke, a former Flyer. Clarke declined the offer, Burke was put on waivers Tuesday and cleared them.

Clarke said he will wait to find out how long Niittymaki will be out before making any personnel moves. If Niittymaki is out for a long time, Clarke indicated he may go after a veteran backup.

Rookie goalie Martin Houle will dress for the final two preseason games, at New Jersey on Thursday night and at Washington on Friday night.

"He's a pretty good young goalie," Clarke said of Martin Houle. "But I'm not sure we want to have him just sit and watch."

Coach Ken Hitchcock said he has no qualms about playing Houle, a 21-year-old Quebec native, who has yet to see NHL action.

"If it's Houle, we'll probably get him in some games," Hitchcock said. "He's done well. I think with all the back-to-back games early in the season, it's unrealistic to expect Esche to play in all of those."

Niittymaki was scheduled to be examined by Nashville-based hip specialist Dr. Thomas Byrd.

Byrd performed surgery on Niittymaki's right hip last May.

"We all feel bad for Antero," said right wing Mike Knuble. "He worked hard to get back and ready for camp. To find out the other one is injured has to be extremely frustrating for him."

Niittymaki tied a Flyers rookie record with 23 wins last season.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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