Michael Leighton said last week that he doesn't remember the last time he started nine games in a row - at any level, the NHL or the AHL.

More importantly, he probably can't remember ever having a singular run this perfect - anywhere.

In his last nine starts for the Flyers, Leighton has already topped his career high for wins (six) in an NHL season. His 7-0-1 record has carried the Flyers on a 7-1-1 stretch - a perfect antidote for a 3-13-1 in November and December - to give the Flyers their best nine-game roll of the season.

Undoubtedly, Leighton has received a lot of help from the guys skating in front of him - he said so himself after Saturday night's 4-1 win over Tampa Bay, in which the Flyers held the Lightning to just 12 shots on goal through the first two periods.

"I can't say enough about the team in front of me," Leighton said. "We played good defense again. Our penalty kill was great. The shots did come [from] the outside, and guys were blocking shots too."

And the scoring cushion has been there.

The Flyers have scored 38 goals in the last nine games, something they couldn't do in Brian Boucher's solid starts in place of the injured Ray Emery.

The Flyers' power play, which has climbed back up to third in the NHL with a 9-for-27 conversion rate (37 percent), and penalty kill, which has killed off 30 of the last 32 power plays (93.7 percent), are clicking on all cylinders.

But it's hard to deny Leighton's success. His .928 save percentage - which includes the two goals he gave up on seven shots before he was pulled in Ottawa on Jan. 3 - and 2.13 goals against average speak for themselves.

The Flyers' record - and not those stats - is probably the reason why Emery was loaned to Adirondack on Saturday night for an AHL conditioning tune-up. Rather than force a tough decision before Emery was game-tested, the Flyers wanted to continue to ride Leighton's hot streak.

Emery stopped 12-of-14 shots in the Phantoms' 2-1 loss to Portland.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren has made it clear that he has no problem sticking with three goalies for the time being. But something has to give when Ryan Parent - or any other position player - is ready to return to the lineup.

That could spell the end of Boucher's run in the NHL this season.

For now, Peter Laviolette doesn't have any answers.

He hinted at Friday's practice that he wasn't yet ready to pull the plug on Leighton - who said he realizes he is still the team's third goalie - just because Emery is healthy.

Nor should he.

The move says a lot, considering Laviolette was the one pushing for Emery to be considered for the Canadian Olympic team during his hot run in October and November.

The proverbs in this situation - like if it ain't broke, don't fix it - are endless. They need not apply. Just win.

"I've never been in this situation," Leighton said. "So it's definitely a lot of fun. You play the game to win, and so far we're winning, so it's good."

Winning cures all ailments in pro sports, no matter whose name is in the win column on the box score.

Carnival time

Rather than spend a Sunday at the rink, the Flyers and their families spent yesterday with fans at their annual Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival at the Wachovia Center. Over the past 32 years, the carnival has raised more than $22 million for various Philadelphia-based charities.

For quite a few Flyers players, yesterday's event, which attracted more than 8,000 fans, was an introduction to a unique team tradition.

"It has been interesting," Chris Pronger said. "It is for a great cause. This is not only a chance for us to connect with the fans and get out in the community, but also raise some well-needed funds for charities that are going to do some good with it and help out the less fortunate."

Rookie James van Riemsdyk enjoyed playing video games against fans, while those in attendance could bid on unique opportunities like a road trip with the Flyers on the team charter, an exercise class with Ian Laperriere, lunch with Pronger and his wife Lauren at the Capital Grille or floor seats to the Sixers/Lakers game with Scott Hartnell and Arron Asham.

The total amount of money raised yesterday will be tabulated and announced at future date.

Phantoms phile

Phantoms forward Jon Matsumoto will represent Adirondack in next week's AHL All-Star Classic in Portland, Maine. Matsumoto, who has never appeared in an NHL game, has 31 points in 37 games this season. He was topped for the Phantoms' lead in goals by the red-hot Stefan Legein, who has scored 13 goals in his last 19 games. Legein, 21, a once heralded prospect who quit hockey for a 3-month period, was acquired by the Flyers from Columbus in October.

Slap shots

Chris Pronger was named to the first line of The Hockey News' All-Decade team. Former Flyers Donald Brashear (team enforcer) and Rod Brind'Amour were chosen, though Brind'Amour was traded by the Flyers 23 days into this decade. Somehow, Sidney Crosby was left off the list . . . The Flyers will resume practice this morning at the Skate Zone.

By the numbers

4.22: Flyers' number of goals per game in their current 7-1-1 stretch.

2.71: Flyers' number of goals per game in the 35 games before this nine-game run.

6: Number of power-play goals the Flyers have scored in their last three games.

626: Number of career games it took for both Simon Gagne and Danny Briere to reach 500 points in the NHL. Both accomplished the feat last week.

The week ahead

vs. Dallas

Tomorrow, 7 o'clock

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Radio: WIP (610-AM)

This will be the first meeting with Dallas this season. The Flyers will also face the Stars in March in Dallas. This game is part of a quick three-game trip for the Stars, who are four points out of eighth place in the Western Conference after last night's 2-0 loss to Columbus. Before last night, Brad Richards was third in the NHL with 39 assists; he also leads the Stars in points. Dallas is the only Pacific Division foe the Flyers have not yet faced.

at Toronto

Thursday, 7 o'clock

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Radio: WIP (610-AM)

This promises to be a fight-filled affair when the Flyers visit the Air Canada Centre for the first time this season. The Flyers and Leafs introduced themselves with four fights in their first meeting of the season last week, which the Flyers won handily, 6-2. Toronto is a paltry 2-6-1 vs. the Atlantic Division this season. Defenseman Tomas Kaberle, who once was rumored to be heading to Philly for Eric Lindros, has five more points (39) than the closest Leafs forward (Matt Stajan, 34).

at Washington

Sunday, 3 o'clock

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Radio: WIP (610-AM)

Since a 6-5 overtime victory in their home opener on Oct. 6, the Flyers have been outscored, 12-4, in their last two contests against the Caps. The Flyers face Washington - and newly minted captain Alex Ovechkin - on Sunday for the first time since an 8-2 drubbing inPeter Laviolette's first game as the Flyers' bench boss. Washington is running away with the Southeast Division, currently holding a 16-point lead that guarantees them a finish of no worse than third in the Eastern Conference.