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Boucher ready to suit up for Game 1

by Dave Lozo /
CHICAGO -- Brian Boucher's season looked like it was over after he sprained both knees during the Philadelphia Flyers' second-round series against the Boston Bruins. Less than three weeks later, it sounds as though the goaltender will be suiting up for the Stanley Cup Final.

Boucher, who was in agonizing pain after teammate Ryan Parent fell on his legs during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, practiced Friday at United Center on the eve of Game 1 against the Chicago Blackhawks. Boucher says nothing is official, but he's "99 percent" sure he'll be backing up Michael Leighton Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).

"Medically I'm ready to go," Boucher said. "If it doesn't happen it will be a coach's decision, but I don't anticipate that being the case."

Boucher looked sharp and confident during his third-straight practice since suffering the injury on May 10 -- an injury so severe that at the moment it happened he believed his season was over.

"Oh yeah. I thought for sure," Boucher said. "First of all, I had not had an injury like that. So I didn't know. I just knew I couldn't get my leg out from under me. Obviously it hurt quite a bit. But then I got good news it wasn't the ACL, it was just the MCL, and thankfully it healed up quickly."

It's been a wild season for Boucher and the Flyers' goaltenders. Ray Emery opened the season as the team's No. 1 goalie, but suffered an abdominal injury in early January that sidelined him for 18 games. As quickly as the door opened for Boucher, it slammed shut almost immediately when he had his finger sliced during a game.

That led to the Flyers signing Leighton, who excelled after being claimed off waivers from the Carolina Hurricanes. But he was just keeping the spot warm for Emery, who returned and played eight games before suffering a season-ending groin injury.

Coach Peter Laviolette handed the reins back to Leighton, who held the job until March 16, when he went down with a high ankle sprain that cost him the rest of the regular season. Boucher once again was given the starting job and was getting it done in the playoffs, going 6-4 with a 2.33 goals-against average and .915 save percentage before Parent nearly ended his season.

Now Boucher is the backup -- and not surprisingly, he's at the ready if Leighton goes down again.
"That's the thing," Boucher said. "I have to be ready. This is a situation where if I'm not ready to play physically, medically, I can't come back. I may never get in a game, but you have to treat it as such that you are playing in game. If something happens you have to be ready to go."

Leighton has not only been respectable since replacing Boucher in the playoffs, but he'd be the Conn Smythe frontrunner if his numbers covered the entire playoffs. Leighton is 6-1 with a 1.45 GAA and .948 save percentage and won Games 6 and 7 against Boston to cap Philadelphia's historic comeback from down 3-0 in the series. His three shutouts against the Montreal Canadiens during the Eastern Conference Finals are more than any goalie has during the whole postseason.

Still, the Flyers are glad to get back Boucher, who is following in the footsteps of teammates Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and Ian Laperriere. All thought to be lost for the season at some point during the playoffs, yet all four will be in the lineup for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

"Maybe they misdiagnosed us, make us out too long," Boucher joked. "Makes everybody look good. It's that time of year where you hope that you keep playing and then you get the opportunity. You have all the motivation to want to come back."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DLozoNHL

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