The Philadelphia Flyers have gotten off to a tough start on their road trip. Things may get even more difficult with their starting goaltender out.
Holding a playoff spot but far from assured of claiming one, the Flyers turn to Brian Boucher(notes) to replace the injured Michael Leighton(notes) on Thursday night when they seek their first road win over the Dallas Stars in 13-plus years.
Leighton suffered a high ankle sprain in a 4-3 shootout loss in Nashville on Tuesday, leaving early in the first period. According to the Flyers’ official Web site, he remained in Philadelphia to undergo an MRI and will be out at least a few weeks.
“I went out to get the puck and it got away from me and I just went back on my leg and felt my (ankle) pop,” he said. “It was just the way I fell backwards. I felt something pop, and it didn’t feel good.”
The goaltending duties now fall on Boucher, who hasn’t started since Dec. 21 against Florida. In 21 appearances - 14 starts - Boucher is 4-12-2 with a 2.77 goals-against average. He allowed one regulation goal and the deciding score in the shootout Tuesday.
“This is the best part of the year, and you’ve got everybody’s attention now with the playoff push,” he said. “I feel pretty good.”
While Boucher was excited about the opportunity, Leighton’s injury comes at an inopportune time for Philadelphia, which has lost four straight on the road and is halfway through a four-game trip which ends Saturday in Atlanta. The Flyers (36-28-5) are seventh in the Eastern Conference, three points ahead of Boston and six in front of the ninth-place New York Rangers.
Philadelphia hasn’t played in Dallas since a 3-2 loss March 13, 2007, and is 0-4 with two ties there since a 6-3 victory Dec. 6, 1996.
Boucher has won only twice in seven games at Dallas and is facing a Stars team coming off its highest-scoring game of the season, an 8-2 win over San Jose on Wednesday. Brenden Morrow(notes) and Mike Ribeiro(notes) each had two goals and two assists, while Kari Lehtonen(notes) recorded 45 saves in his second start of the season.
The Stars (30-26-13) snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 2-5-1 since the Olympic break, leaving them seven points behind Detroit for the eighth and final playoff seed in the West.
“We beat a real good club, but we have a big challenge ahead of us,” Morrow said.
Whether the Stars are able to make the postseason may depend largely on how effective their goaltending is. Lehtonen, acquired in a trade with Atlanta on Feb. 9, is coming off two back surgeries that have kept him out most of the season. He’ll be looking to help a Dallas team that has given up 34 goals in its last eight games.
Coach Marc Crawford said Tuesday he plans to start Lehtonen against Philadelphia even though the goaltender is winless in nine games against the Flyers with a 3.84 GAA.
Philadelphia defeated Dallas 6-3 on Jan. 12 with six players scoring for the Flyers.