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Niittymaki earns another start

Posted Oct 11, 2009 by Tribune Sports

Updated Oct 11, 2009 at 01:52 PM

TAMPA—Backup goalie Antero Niittymaki will make a second consecutive start tomorrow night when the Lightning host the Florida Panthers, coach Rick Tocchet said after a one-hour practice today at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Tocchet continues to say No. 1 goalie Mike Smith is fine, despite some general soreness after a hard collision with New Jersey’s Jamie Langenbrunner Thursday night. Smtih made a hasty exit after today’s practice.

Niittymak, who had a 15-8-6 record and 2.76 goals-against average last year with Philadelphia,  blocked 24 of 26 shots and made a couple of outstanding saves Saturday night to help the Lightning win their first game of the season, 5-2 over Carolina. Tocchet said his performance earned him another start and that there are no plans to give Smith extended time off or place him on injured reserve.

“No, he’ll play,” Tocchet said. of Smith “He’s going to play a lot. But Nitty’s going tomorrow.”

Defenseman Kurtis Foster’s will come off injured reserve and be available tomorrow after missing the last three games with a lower-body injury, but no decision has been made on whether he’ll play.

“We’ll have to see what lineup we’re going with,” Tocchet said.

Foster said he’s anxious to return and that it’s the team’s call.

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