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Signs point to Boucher starting in goal

The Philadelphia Flyers have a goaltending controversy heading into Game Three.

Or do they?

It seems likely coach Peter Laviolette will start Brian Boucher in goal tonight after he earned the win Saturday in relief of shaky rookie Sergei Bobrovsky. Laviolette, as most NHL coaches tend to do at this time of the year, is guarding his choice like a state secret.

He wouldn't get into a talk about his goaltenders' status following the Flyers' 5-4 victory and wouldn't discuss any lineup changes after Sunday's optional practice in Voorhees, N.J., before the Flyers took off for Buffalo.

Bobrovsky gave up three goals on seven shots and was yanked after just 12 1/2 minutes Saturday. Boucher stopped 20 of 21 shots to earn the win.

Bobrovsky took extra work before and during the Flyers' optional skate Sunday while Boucher was not on the ice, another sign the Flyers are likely to go with the veteran over the rookie tonight.

Following Game Two, Laviolette said the switch was about nothing more than a "change of momentum."

"Boosh is a veteran goaltender," Laviolette said. "In a situation where they came back and took the lead, you get somebody in there who has some calmness to him, a presence to him and really take some pressure off our defensemen."

Still, there's a school of thought that it would be far tougher for Bobrovsky to come into a game cold like Boucher has learned to do as a backup. If that's the theory, Bobrovsky could conceivably get another chance.

"We've got a lot of confidence in Bob," Laviolette said. "He always answers the bell. When he's had an outing in which he wishes he could have a few back, he always answers the bell. He's a young kid, but we're really happy with him."

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Injured defenseman Chris Pronger made the trip to Buffalo with his team but will not play again tonight due to his broken hand. The Flyers say Pronger will not speak to the media until he is ready to play in a game. Officially, he's listed as day-to-day and there's some hope he might play in Game Four, but Pronger is still not practicing with the team.

Flyers forward Andreas Nodl played just 3:43 in Game Two due to what the team called an upper-body injury. The team did not issue any other updates, but if Nodl can't play, the two most likely options to replace him are healthy scratch Nikolay Zherdev or tough guy Jody Shelley, who has been out with a cracked orbital bone.

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The HSBC fans were certainly going to boo Flyers center Danny Briere every time he touches the puck tonight anyway, but they have even more fodder to lambaste the former Buffalo captain over following his first-period run-ins Saturday with Paul Gaustad and Patrick Kaleta.

Gaustad pushed Briere down during a faceoff in the center circle following Thomas Vanek's first goal of the game. The puck was dropped and Gaustad immediately fought with Scott Hartnell while Briere exchanged elbows and glove punches with Kaleta before other players broke them up.

"It was a very chippy game, a tough one to ref," Briere said. "[The officials] were put in a tough position. Certainly I thought [Gaustad] was crowding the faceoff and I tried to get on the inside and he pushed me to the ground. After that, everybody was kind of fired up even more.

"I don't think I'm there to send messages but I was just standing my ground [against Kaleta]. This is the playoffs. He has a job to do. We both want to win."

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According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the Flyers had 10 power plays in a playoff game prior to Saturday was on April 24, 1998 against the Sabres. Oddly enough, it was Game Two in the then-CoreStates Center and the Flyers survived a 1-for-10 showing to post a one-goal victory (3-2) -- just as they did Saturday.

It was, however, the only game in the series Philadelphia won. The Sabres took it, four games to one, as Michal Grosek's overtime goal closed out Philly in Game Five.

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Both teams will hold their usual pregame skates this morning in the arena. The Sabres remind fans that their workout, which is open to the public during the regular season, is now closed for the duration of the playoffs.

The team will stage its first outdoor Party in the Plaza viewing party for the game beginning at 5 p.m. outside the arena in the area near Perry and Illinois streets. Food and beverages will be available for purchases; there will be live music, and fans can watch the game on two large screens. There is no admission charge, and game tickets are not required.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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