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Sizzling Boucher remaining in net

Let the goalie controversy begin.

Brian Boucher, who has a 1.45 goals-against average in his last four appearances, will be the starter Thursday against visiting Vancouver, coach John Stevens announced after Wednesday's practice in Voorhees.

Ray Emery has a 4.71 GAA in his last four starts, so Stevens is sticking with the hot hand.

In another development, left winger James van Riemsdyk was named the NHL's rookie of the month, and defenseman Oskars Bartulis signed a three-year extension worth a reported $1.8 million.

"Everything happened so quick," said Bartluis, who was recalled from the AHL Phantoms a little over three weeks ago. "I got called up on an emergency basis and I played well, and after seven or eight games, my agent called and said they wanted to sign me again. So it was really fast, but I'm happy for everything."

Bartulis has two assists and is minus-two in 10 games.

"I think he'll do more things offensively as he moves along; he has a skill set to do so, but the reason he's here is because he's so smart on defense and defends so well without the puck," Stevens said.

As for the goalie situation, Stevens said he was staying with the sizzling Boucher because of his familiarity with Western Conference teams, such as Vancouver. He hinted that Emery would return to the nets Saturday against Washington, which will be minus suspended superstar Alex Ovechkin.

Down the road, "Ray is going to play and play a lot, but I think we're going to need Boosh to play and win us a fair amount of games as well," Stevens said. "If you look at the schedule, the only break is the Olympic break" in February. "There's no rest in sight and we're going to need both goalies playing at a high level."
     Defenseman Chris Pronger called it "good to have competition between the two goalies to push one another. It forces guys to get better and play with the confidence that they know _ and we know _ we can win with either one."
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The Flyers spent a lot of time at Wednesday's practice working on their power play, which is 0 for its last 9.

"It's a matter of winning puck battles," Stevens said. "We need to simplify and just get the puck up top and get it to the net with people at the net."

In their 13 wins, the Flyers' power play has clicked at 36 percent; in their 11 losses, the PP has converted just 13.2 percent of its chances.

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The Flyers announced that 1,650 tickets remain for Thursday.