Brian Boucher has been in this position before.

Last year with the San Jose Sharks, Boucher was forced to fill in for two separate stretches with the NHL's hottest team when starter Evgeni Nabokov went down.

Now, he will need to do it again with Ray Emery sidelined until sometime around Jan. 20. Emery had successful surgery on Wednesday to repair significant tears to his abdominal wall.

Boucher, who might be the Flyers' most underrated player in the last few weeks, revels in this new opportunity.

"I am excited," Boucher said Wednesday. "I'm going to try to do the best job I can for this team. That's what I was signed to do, regardless of whether I was No. 2 or No. 1. That's how I am going to approach it. I'm going to take it one game at a time."

With the Sharks, Boucher started 22 games with an impressive 12-6-3 record and 2.18 GAA. The real question, though, is whether Boucher can handle the workload.

The Flyers started a clip of 12 games in 21 days on Monday in Montreal, and Boucher has started all three games this week. He stopped 23 of 24 shots in the Flyers' 2-0 loss to Ottawa last night.

Boucher hasn't played more than 22 games in an NHL season since 2003-04.

If Boucher starts the bulk of the games until Jan. 20, he will almost be at 30 starts for the season.

"Going back down to the Phantoms a couple years ago, I played 40-some odd games," Boucher said. "So, I think that was more a step in this direction of having to play a lot of games and every night and I got my game back.

"I look back at that and say, I was able to handle that workload. For me, it's being ready to play every single day, regardless of whether you are the No. 2 or the No. 1."

Boucher said a key to that is in his preparation. He has prepared this season the same way he would have if he was the Flyers' full-time starter.

"If you are the No. 1," Boucher said, "it's not a shock to the system. You prepare every single day the same. The practice load is different as the No. 2. You stay a little bit longer to stay sharp. But for the most part, I prepare the same."

The Flyers haven't said whether Johan Backlund would be able to fill in at all for Boucher. This is Backlund's first season in North America. He started 15 games for the Phantoms this season, with a 6-8-0 record, and has played five seasons in the Swedish Elite League.

Halak on the block reported yesterday that the Canadiens are willing to part with backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak for the right price. Halak would be a nice temporary fit for the Flyers until Ray Emery is able to return toward the end of next month.

According to La Presse, Montreal is looking for a top-six forward in exchange. Halak is 6-4-0 this season with a 2.80 GAA and .907 save percentage. He appeared in 34 games last season with a 2.86 GAA.

Halak makes $775,000 - which could possibly be squeezed into the Flyers' cap - and is set to be a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

General manager Paul Holmgren said Tuesday that the Flyers would be willing to "see what's out there" with Emery on the shelf. With a solid goalie like Halak, the Flyers would have a dilemma on their hands when Emery is set to return.

Kick saves

The AHL announced yesterday that Flyers assistant general manager John Paddock would be inducted into the league's Hall of Fame on Jan. 19 in Portland, Maine. Paddock coached the Phantoms in their final year in Philadelphia. In all, Paddock's name was etched on the Calder Cup five times - twice as a player and three times as a championship coach. His coaching record of 585-424-98 ranks third in the AHL in both wins and games coached . . . Peter Laviolette made it explicitly clear yesterday that his team would skate at the Flyers Skate Zone on the day of games, not at the Wachovia Center as it did under John Stevens.