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niittymaki_finland

Name: Antero Pertti Elias Niittymäki

Birth Date: June 18, 1980

Birthplace: Turku, Finland

Nickname: Niitty, Frank

This 29 year old goalie started out playing in Finland with the TPS Turku in the Finnish Elite League (SM-liiga) before being drafted 168th overall, in the 6th round by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. In 2000 he won rookie of the year in the Finnish Elite league, winning the Jarmo Wasama memorial trophy. He played 4 seasons in Finland before going and playing for the Flyers' AHL affiliate the Philadelphia Phantoms in 2002-2003.

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In 2003-2004 Niitty was called up for 3 games with the Flyers and had a SV% of .961. He started out as a backup for Esche getting playing time when Esche went down with injuries. The following year in the 2006-07 season Niittymaki battled injuries and ended up only playing 28 games. Philly then acquired Martin Biron and Niitty ended up splitting time with Biron in net.

Over at the Flyers blog, Flyers Goal Scored By, Francisco provided the following thoughts about Niitty:

It would be safe to say that FGSB enjoyed Nitty's time in the Orange and Black. A backup, a starter, an Olympic MVP, Nitty was always the guy who would show up to work, and impress you...most of the time. I think Philadelphia had dreams of Nitty being a #1, but sadly, that never happened. From the Phantoms to the Flyers, every chance he got, he floundered it away, but would always remain solid as a backup. Much like the past 15 years, Nitty was the typical Flyers goalie. He'd marvel you with an insane save, but next shift would allow Colton Orr to beat him top shelf. Puzzling and frustrating were two words commonly used to describe Nittymaki. Maybe we jumped the gun thinking he'd be a #1, but his flashes of brilliance had everyone sold. Maybe it was the numerous injuries, but Nitty's time in Philly felt sadly unfulfilled. Can't hate on "Frank" as he always gave everything he had. Honestly wish he was still our backup and will be a darkhorse as the Finnish netminder.

In 2009 he signed a contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning as a backup goalie for Mike Smith, but Niittymaki's strong performances and Smith's injuries have made Tocchet alternate between the two goalies for the Lightning.

On the world stage, Niittymaki has played for Finland in the WJC's in 1999-00, and in the World Championships in 2006. After Miikka Kiprusoff and Kari Lehtonen pulled out due to injury, Niittymaki was named to Team Finland in the 2006 Olympics. He won MVP in the tournament after posting 3 shutouts in 6 games and the silver medal for Finland. During the tournament he also had the best goals-against average at 1.34 and save percentage at .951

Miikka Kiprusoff and Niklas Backstrom were also named as goalies for the Finnish team, with Kipper expected to be the starting goaltender.

Vancity CanuckVancity Canuck writes about the Vancouver Canucks at Benched Whale and the Tampa Bay Lightning at The Hockey Bay Blog in addition to her work on Bloguin's Olympic Hockey Blog.