Thursday, March 18, 2010

Leighton's injury leaves Flyers dangerously thin

While the prognosis on how long Michael Leighton will be out with a high ankle sprain is not yet known, it's pretty clear that the Flyers will be without their starting goaltender for at least a few weeks. In his absence, Brian Boucher is being asked to step into the starting role.

Despite his mediocre play this season, Boucher was acquired this offseason for just this circumstance. Sure, you don't want to have to rely on him to backstop your team at the most crucial time of the year, but there are worse options out there. Boosh has been known to go on hot streaks in the past, perhaps he can find some of that year 2000 magic again. Fortunately, all Boucher has to do is keep the Flyers in the game, not carry them.

Boucher will be called on to do the most of the heavy lifting in net for the foreseeable future as the Flyers don't have another goalie in the system with any NHL experience. Jeremy Duchesne was called up from Adirondack yesterday and he will, at least temporarily, serve as the backup. Fellow Phantom Johan Backlund was the first choice for the Flyers but he is currently dealing with a groin pull. GM Paul Holmgren has made it clear that once Backlund is healthy, which could be in just a few days, he will swap the two.

Expect Duchesne to only be used in an emergency. He's a former 4th round pick who played in 19 games in the ECHL before joining the Phantoms for 2 games this season. He really doesn't figure into the Flyers future options in net.

As for Backlund, once he's recalled I would expect him to get some playing time. He signed back in March with the Flyers and has put together pretty good numbers in the AHL this year. He could make for a nice backup next year if he has a good showing so expect the Flyers to give Backlund a start or two. Who knows, he could prove to be better than Boucher.

The Flyers system is extremely thin when it comes to goaltenders. Some rumors have already circulated (via Hockeybuzz) that they may look into bringing Robert Esche back for the rest of the regular season. While I seriously doubt that, it does reflect on how poorly Paul Holmgren prepared the Flyers for this situation. Then again, most teams aren't prepared to lose two starting goaltenders in the course of one season.

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