SAN JOSE Antero Niittymaki made his return to practice on Wednesday at Sharks Ice, as he continues to recover from offseason hip surgery in early September.
It was fun. Its been a long time since a real practice, he said. I got a feel for it yesterday with a few guys, but it was nice to be there at full speed and feeling real shots.
The 31-year-old Finland native said he probably could have returned last week, but that he wanted to make absolutely certain there are no setbacks.
Hes hopeful that hes about two weeks away from being 100 percent.
Hopefully at that point, I can say Im good to go, he said.
It was a trying summer for Niittymaki, who noted that his hip problems dated back to last season. He said he saw a lot of doctors over the summer, sent X-rays all over the world, and held out hope that surgery would not be necessary.
It was kind of an ongoing thing last year, he said. There were times when it got a little better and some things worked, and then some things didnt. We had a good program for the summer, but it just kept getting worse and worse.
We tried to figure out everything and surgery was kind of the last thing we wanted to do, but it got to the point that we didnt really have an option.
When Niittymaki is healthy, the Sharks will have a tricky decision to make. Antti Niemi is the undisputed starter, but backup Thomas Greiss has been very good as the backup. In seven games, Greiss is 4-3-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.
Niittymaki had a 12-7-3 record and a 2.72 GAA in 24 games for the Sharks last season.
Greiss is signed through the 2012-13 season, while Niittymaki is in the final year of his two-year deal. Furthermore, Greiss cannot be sent to the Sharks' AHL affiliate in Worcester without first having to clear waivers.
Niittymaki was asked if hes thought about what might occur when hes ready to play.
No, its not my job, he said. We have people for that, making decisions. Well see what happens.