Slumping Flyers goalie Ray Emery, who has not won a game in his last five starts, will have surgery today to repair a torn muscle in his lower abdominal wall and will miss at least six weeks, the team said.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said Emery has been injured for more than three weeks - and blamed his recent struggles on the problem.
Surgeon William Meyers will perform the procedure at Hahnemann University Hospital.
Emery has a 5.31 goals-against average in his last five starts.
In essence, coach John Stevens was fired Friday because of a Flyers tailspin that occurred when they were playing with an injured goalie. When Stevens was dismissed, the Flyers had lost six of their last seven, including four starts by Emery, all losses.
Holmgren was asked if Emery's poor play had an impact on Stevens' dismissal. "How can I answer that?" he said. "Ray said he was well enough to play, and now he's not."
Holmgren said Emery was bothered by abdominal pain last month. Emery said he "felt a little pop" when he was injured in a 3-2 loss to visiting Buffalo on Nov. 14.
"I didn't realize what it was at first. Normally, I kind of heal pretty quick, and I thought it was just in [my] head and I could battle through it," said Emery, who has been testy with Philadelphia reporters in recent days. "But I wasn't able to contribute, and if you can't contribute, then you've got to get it fixed."
Why was Emery allowed to play seven games after the injury was discovered?
"He said he could play, so we went with that," goalie coach Jeff Reese said. "The way Ray is, he tried to play through it. Lots of guys would have shut it down. Finally, we had to shut him down."
Holmgren said that after tests showed Emery had a tear, "we tried alternative measures - rehab, cortisone, things like that."
Emery's injury "absolutely" is why his play has deteriorated, Holmgren said.
"Ray is a down young man today because he feels like he let his team down," he said. "But he's been fighting through this and trying every which way to get through this. In my opinion, he couldn't practice the way he normally practices, and I think his game suffered."
With Emery sidelined, veteran Brian Boucher will receive most of the starts. Boucher will play a lot because the Flyers are in the early stages of a stretch in which they play 12 games in 21 days.
Boucher, then with San Jose, last played extensively in February and March, when he was used in eight straight games because of an injury to Evgeni Nabokov. He allowed 22 goals and was 2-5-1.
The 32-year-old Boucher entered last night with a 2.60 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage.
"Boosh has played well. We just need to score goals," Reese said before the game. "Sometimes, when you're not scoring, you try to play a perfect game" as a goalie.
Johan Backlund, 28, was recalled from the AHL's Phantoms and will serve as the backup for now. In 15 games with the Phantoms, Backlund was 6-8 with a 2.81 GAA and a .903 save percentage.
In the last few seasons, the Flyers have had numerous groin, abdominal and hip injuries. The list includes Emery, Simon Gagne, Mike Richards, Boucher, Danny Briere, Antero Niittymaki, Scottie Upshall and Randy Jones.
"I'm not sure we're alone, though," Holmgren said. "I think it's a league-wide thing. I think a lot of it is just the speed of the games since the lockout. Because of the new rules package, it's a lot faster out there. In terms of goaltenders, it's chaos in front of the net, with shots coming from every angle, bodies coming at you. There's a lot of things going on at a very high rate of speed."
Emery, 27, is 11-8-1 with a 2.83 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage.
Former Flyers goalie Marty Biron started against his ex-teammates last night for the Islanders. With injured goalie Rick DiPietro expected to return shortly, Biron could become expendable, and he is inexpensive ($1.4 million).
Is a return to the Flyers in the cards?
Holmgren said he would see how things played out before any decision to add a goalie.
"I can go two ways on that," Holmgren said. "I'm anxious to see how Johan handles this. He's played very well for us in the American League. Everybody knows it's his first year over here in North America, but at the same time, we always have to look to improve our club, so we'll see how it goes."