Backup goalie Michael Leighton rescued the Flyers' season by going 8-1-1, with a no-decision, during an 11-game stretch while Ray Emery was injured.

Now he may be working on the sequel.

Leighton is expected to make his fourth straight start tonight against the New Jersey Devils in Newark. Once again, he is replacing Emery, who missed nearly six weeks earlier in the season after abdominal surgery and is now bothered by an injured left hip.

General manager Paul Holmgren attended the funeral of Brendan Burke, the son of Toronto GM Brian Burke, yesterday in Canton, Mass. Holmgren said in a statement that an MRI test and X-rays on Emery's hip were still "being looked at" and that "we hope to have more information in a day or two."

Not exactly positive news.

Emery would not comment, but there have been indications that he is headed for surgery.

On Monday, Holmgren did not rule out surgery on the goalie's hip, but he hinted that it might not happen until later in the season.

"Is it something where down the road we need to address this surgically? We need to get a feel of where he's at right now," Holmgren said. "We all seem to think he's going to be fine for the short term, anyway. We'll have a better idea about the long term after we get the results."

For the time being, Leighton appears to be the Flyers' No. 1 goalie.

Coach Peter Laviolette had enough confidence in Leighton that he started him for four more games after Emery was ready to return following abdominal surgery.

"He gets another opportunity," Laviolette said yesterday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, one day after Leighton helped the Flyers defeat New Jersey, 3-2. "He's played terrific. Even in the losses he was terrific, and [Monday] night was no different. He made big saves when the game was on the line."

Laviolette was asked if he thought Emery was rushed back into action and if that contributed to his second injury.

"I don't know how you can rush him back when he was sitting out when he was healthy," the coach said. "He got cleared and he was waiting to play because Michael Leighton was hot for four games."

When he returned, Emery made eight straight starts and compiled a 2.17 goals-against average. He blanked Calgary, 3-0, in his last start on Feb. 1. "The schedule hasn't been that taxing for him, and he's been healthy," Laviolette said.

Laviolette said he did not feel that he played Emery too much.

"When somebody gets cleared to play and they're available to come back, they're available to go in the lineup," he said. "He played a lot of games; he seemed to be finding his rhythm. His best game, though there wasn't a lot of work, was in Calgary. He just got a little bit tight" in his left hip.

The Flyers did not practice yesterday, but a handful of players were on the ice when the media arrived: Ville Leino, Riley Cote and Brian Boucher. Laviolette said Emery had skated earlier in the day.

If Leighton goes on another surge, Laviolette will likely keep him in goal even if Emery gets healthy.

"I think I've already shown I will go with the [hot] guy," Laviolette said.

Captain Mike Richards said Leighton "has played extremely well when he's stepped in there, and we're confident with him behind us."

Richards was sympathetic to Emery's plight.

"It's tough being out of the lineup, especially for him," Richards said. "He's a competitive guy who always likes being in the net. You can see his demeanor in practice and how hard he works and how much he wants to be there. I'm sure he's frustrated with it, but he wants to get it taken care of."

Breakaways. Monday's comeback win gave the Flyers a 6-25 record in games in which they have trailed at any point. . . . On Monday, Dan Carcillo moved to Richards' line, Scott Hartnell returned to Jeff Carter's line, and Darroll Powe shifted to Blair Betts' unit. . . . The recently acquired Leino still has not played for the Flyers. "We're in a situation where we're just coming off a big win and I like the way everybody played," Laviolette said. "Eventually, we'll get him in the lineup." . . . If an ankle injury to Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf prevents him from playing, Carter is expected to replace him on Team Canada for the Olympics. . . . Nick Luukko, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound defenseman from West Chester, made an oral commitment to the University of Vermont. He is the son of Peter Luukko, president of the Flyers' parent company, Comcast-Spectacor. The younger Luukko is expected to be a mid-round selection in the June NHL draft. He probably will play a season of junior hockey before attending Vermont.