Frustrated Niittymaki: 'I want to play'

January 9, 2012, 8:14 pm
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SAN JOSE Antero Niittymaki has been an active player on the Sharks roster since returning on Dec. 23 from a conditioning stint in Worcester. He has yet to play, or even dress as a backup, in the six games the Sharks have played since.

He was asked after Mondays practice at Sharks Ice if hes frustrated.

Obviously, yeah. What can I say? Obviously, I want to play, but it doesnt look like Im going to play any time soon, Niittymaki told Comcast SportsNet California in an exclusive conversation.

Niittymaki, who had hip surgery in early September causing him to miss training camp and the first two and a half months this year, was asked point blank if hed like to play somewhere else if thats what gets him back in the crease.

I want to play. I want to play. Lets put it that way. Ive played zero games this year, he said.

No one from the team has approached him about the possibility of getting traded, he said.

Its a complicated situation for an NHL team to carry three goaltenders, especially when Sharks starter Antti Niemi gets the bulk of the work and is playing well. The Sharks have no choice at the moment, though, unless they want to risk losing Niittymaki or Thomas Greiss for nothing. Neither is exempt from waivers if the club decided to reassign one to Worcester.

That doesnt prevent the Sharks from trying to get something in return via trade. Niittymaki, 31, is the likelier candidate to get moved, as he is a proven veteran and an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. Greiss, 25, has shown himself as a capable backup this season and is signed through 2012-13 season with a low salary cap hit of 587,500.

To his credit, Niittymaki has remained positive in practice and around the team, according to Todd McLellan.

I think hes been a really good teammate and a coachable player. He wants to get his game back, and has worked real had in practice, McLellan said.