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Flyers' Emery out for six weeks

by Adam Kimelman
PHILADELPHIA -- The latest body blow for a reeling Philadelphia Flyers team is the loss of starting goaltender Ray Emery for at least six weeks due to a torn muscle in his lower abdominal wall.

He'll have surgery to fix the tear Wednesday at HahnemannUniversityHospital, by renowned groin specialist Dr. William Meyers.

"We tried to approach it from rehab and through cortisone injections and stuff like that," Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren said. "It wasn't progressing to the point where either us or Ray felt comfortable moving forward, so we decided to move ahead and get the surgery done."

Emery is 11-8-1 with a 2.83 goals-against average and .901 save percentage this season, but he's lost his last four starts and hasn't won since Nov. 16. Holmgren said Emery couldn't pinpoint when the injury happened, but said it was mid-November, prior to the West Coast trip that started their current downturn.

"It's been bothering Ray … probably since before mid-November," Holmgren said. "Certainly was before we went out on the West Coast, when it started to bother him. Then I think on that trip it continued to get worse and worse."

Emery tried playing through the injury in hope that it could be managed through medicine and rest, but it just wasn't working.

"You always have little things that are tweaked and stuff," Emery said after the Flyers' 6-2 win over the New York Islanders on Tuesday night. "This was different. It was frustrating because in practice at times I can feel pretty decent when it was controlled. Just quick movements I was a second slow -- and that's not good enough."

He said the injury was a major culprit in his recent poor play.

"That's not to say that I didn't go in there like I wasn't capable of playing solid for the team," Emery said. "But it was just to the point where that wasn't happening and it was a result of what was going on there."

For at least the short term, Brian Boucher moves into the starter's role. He stopped 22 of 24 shots as the team snapped a five-game losing streak by beating the Islanders. In nine games, Boucher is 3-5-0 with a 2.53 GAA and .903 save percentage.

Boucher was in a similar role last season in San Jose, when Evgeni Nabokov missed time with a lower-body injury. He said he feels comfortable stepping into the top role in what is a busy -- and crucial -- time for the Flyers. They're still three points out of a playoff spot, and are facing a grueling stretch of eight games in the next 14 days; they don't have more than one day between games until Dec. 27.

"I try to prepare the same every single day," Boucher said. "In your mind you play it out as if you are playing when you're the backup, you just be ready at all times. For me now I'm going to get to go play. Hopefully I can provide the solid goaltending that's needed for us to win games."

Rookie Johan Backlund was called up from the team's American Hockey League affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, to serve as Boucher's backup. No one knows how long he'll stick around in that role.

"I'm anxious to see how Johan handles being here," Holmgren said. "He's played very well for us in the American League. It's his first year here in North America, but at the same time we always have to look to improve our club. We'll see how that goes."

Backlund, 28, played seven seasons in the Swedish Elite League before signing with the Flyers during the summer. In 15 AHL games, he's 6-8-0 with a 2.81 GAA and .903 save percentage.

"I'm here, and I'm ready to go," Backlund said. "I've been working with Jeff (Reese, Flyers' goalie coach) a lot, with the different game over here with the different angles. It's a lot of things that we've been working on. I've been getting into it more and more, so it's good now to play on the (smaller) rink."

Laviolette said the issues at the goalie position won't be used as an excuse.

"I suppose you could cry over your goaltender but that's not going to do any good," he said prior to Tuesday's game. "We have a game tonight. We have to go out and play as hard as we can get those two points tonight."

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