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Antero Niittymaki passed his first test on the ice yesterday at Skate Zone in Voorhees.

The Flyers goalie worked nearly two hours and emerged a bit tired, saying his injured left hip felt good.

"A lot of shots, and so far, it feels really good, no problems," he said.

Niittymaki went through an entire practice of drills, sprints and even a little game of "pepper" at the end, with a half-dozen players firing pucks at him from various angles. He made all kinds of movements in net - butterfly included - without incident.

The telling sign comes this morning, when the Flyers learn how his hip responded. If Niittymaki can practice today at the same pace, he will be deemed ready to back up Robert Esche in the season opener tomorrow in Pittsburgh.

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