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Boucher back in Flyers' home

Unwanted in the NHL, the 30-year-old goalie will join the Phantoms

Brian Boucher wanted to return to a place where he was comfortable, where five years' worth of memories counted for something and his surroundings included friends, not just teammates.

He found that place this summer when Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren signed the goalie to a contract with the Phantoms when no one else wanted him.

"It's not how I envisioned my career going . . . but I'm grateful for the chance to come back to a place I enjoyed so much and where I started my career - and, hopefully, resurrect my career," Boucher said.

There was a time when Boucher seemed destined for great things. He set the NHL's all-time shutout record of 332 minutes, or five-plus games, with Phoenix in 2004-05. Three years later, he is out of the league.

"My goal is to get back to the National Hockey League," Boucher said. "I don't really have a timetable. It's more or less finding my game, getting comfortable, and moving from there and see what happens. . . .

"I'm still young, just 30 years old. Age should not be an issue. I feel I should be going into the prime of my career and not the end. That is how I approach it, with an open mind and positive outlook."

With Antero Niittymaki (backup to Martin Biron) recovering from hip surgery, Boucher represents insurance for the Flyers.

Boucher punched his ticket out of town in April 2002 when he publicly ripped coach Bill Barber during the playoffs against the Ottawa Senators. Keith Primeau and Rick Tocchet did it more subtly, and their outspokenness led to the firing of Barber and the hiring of Ken Hitchcock.

Later, Boucher was traded to the Coyotes for Robert Esche and Michal Handzus.

"I don't know if it was the reason, but it certainly played at least half the factor as to why I got traded," the goalie said of his remarks. "It made it easy to trade me at that point. I have grown up a lot since then. When you are a 25-year-old kid, you say some things when you are emotional. . . . As I got older, I have had more life experiences with my career where you learn not to say these things."

In Phoenix, goalies coach Benoit Allaire tried to transform Boucher into a butterfly-style netminder, much like he did with others. Boucher said he could not make the transition.

"When I went to Phoenix, I tried to be coachable," he said. ". . . I tried my best to do what I was told, and it didn't work for me."

In the end, the two became alienated. "It's a tough place to be," Boucher said. "You have no one to lean on."

In Philadelphia, he will lean again on goalies coach Reggie Lemelin. From a big-picture perspective, Boucher wants to return to the NHL. If he gets his feet on the ground, it could work somewhere, if not here. It did not work in Calgary or Chicago after he left Phoenix.

"Time is of the essence," Boucher said. "I don't have years to get back. . . . I'm willing to take a step back to take two steps forward. . . . I love Philadelphia. The reality of the situation is they have two goaltenders. . . . They're not going to take on more salary for a third guy who is not going to play. If by crazy circumstances things work out here, wonderful."

Loose pucks. Three of the Flyers' eight preseason games will be available via Webcasts at tomorrow's game in London, Ontario, against the Senators; the Sept. 26 game against the Washington Capitals; and the Sept. 29 game against the New York Rangers. Access to the Webcast is free. . . . Tomorrow's game against Ottawa is on CN8. Tonight's game against the New Jersey Devils in Trenton will be broadcast on WIP-AM (610) on tape-delay beginning at 8. . . . Tough guys Steve Downie and Riley Cote tested each other in a scrimmage yesterday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, but there was no fighting. . . . Team Snider won the first Clarke Cup intrasquad scrimmage tournament. . . . Sami Kapanen's visa issues were resolved. He came into training camp over the weekend. . . . Among the rookies and prospects, Claude Giroux has been impressive in scrimmages. . . . reports that Esche will sign with the Rangers as a backup goalie.