Belfour not done: Hitchcock

TERRY KOSHAN

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

Ken Hitchcock does not believe the Hall of Fame career of Ed Belfour is over.

The coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, who knows Belfour rather well from their days together in Dallas, figures the 40-year-old will do all he can to get back to the NHL next season. On March 23, the Maple Leafs announced Belfour had been placed on injured reserve because of his bad back.

The Leafs have an option on Belfour for next season, but it is doubtful they will exercise it.

"He once told me he thought he could play until he was 50," said Hitchcock, who was behind the Stars bench in 1999 when Belfour helped lead the club to a Stanley Cup.

"Until someone tells him to hang up his skates, he is going to try again. I have seen him come back from this situation before and I have seen him come back from it very strong. I have no doubt that he is going to come back and want to play goal again."

Hitchcock couldn't help but take a playful shot at Belfour. The Flyers' goaltending situation took a controversial turn when Robert Esche popped off in yesterday's edition of the Philadelphia Daily News, saying he thinks Finnish rookie Antero Niittymaki will be the starter in the playoffs. Hitchcock said he has not made a decision as to who will start for the Flyers come playoff time.

"I can't make up my mind," Hitchcock said. "If I had some 42-year-old dog that's up in Toronto, it might be an easier choice, but I don't. I have a tough choice and I am going to figure it out."

Niittymaki will start tonight.

DO IT AGAIN

One reason the Leafs were able to keep momentum going early against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday in an eventual 4-3 win was they did not take any dumb penalties.

"We were able to get all four lines in it quickly and we were rolling the lines over quickly," Matt Stajan said.

"Everybody got in and got their legs and it seemed to work. When there are penalties, you have some guys sitting on the bench for seven or eight minutes. (Not taking penalties) was one of the keys early in the game."


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