Niittymaki returns to Finland

August 22, 2012, 4:33 pm
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Former Sharks goaltender Antero Niittymaki has returned to his native Finland for the upcoming season.

Niittymaki, who was waived by the Sharks midway through the 2011-12 season after battling a chronic hip injury that prevented him from practicing until December, will play for TPS Turku after signing a one-year contract.

The goaltender will be re-joining the club with which he began his professional career from 1999-2002.

NHL.coms Bill Meltzer writes:
Niittymaki had an artificial joint placed in his hip before last season and ongoing difficulties limited him to 13 games at the American Hockey League level in 2011-12.

According to newspaper reports in Finland following the season, Niittymaki contemplated retirement as an active player. But after consulting with doctors and making some adjustments to his offseason conditioning regimen, the 32-year-old has instead elected to continue his career in his native Finland.Niittymaki signed a two-year contract with the Sharks in the summer of 2010 and at the time it appeared he would be the starter in the fall, before Antti Niemi became available. Niemi eventually locked down the starter's role while the injury-prone Niittymaki was relegated to backup duty.

Last season, with Niittymaki once again beset by hip problems, Thomas Greiss established himself as Niemis No. 2. The Sharks looked to trade Niittymaki before he was relegated to the minors in January when he was healthy, but there were no takers.

In 24 career games with the Sharks -- all in 2010-11 -- Niittymaki was 12-7-3 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .896 save percentage.