Carousel continues: Boucher in tonight

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Brian Boucher will start in net against the Red Wings. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

DETROIT -- Who's on first?

Oh, you mean, who's in net?

The Flyers’ goaltending carousel has almost become a punch line over the last couple weeks - where it stops, no one knows.

Tonight, at Joe Louis Arena, the carousel will spin to a stop with Brian Boucher’s name being called, the Daily News has learned. His backup is likely to be Sergei Bobrovsky, leaving Michael Leighton as the healthy scratch.

Peter Laviolette’s goaltending rotation - conscious or not - has come full circle on this 4-game West Coast road trip, as it will end tonight in Detroit the same way it started in Vancouver.

Check out the stats:

at Vancouver (12/28): L 6-2
Boucher - allowed 4 goals on 28 shots
Bobrovsky (in relief) - allowed 2 goals on 21 shots

at Los Angeles (12/30): W 7-4
Leighton - allowed 4 goals on 36 shots

at Anaheim (12/31): L 5-2
Bobrovsky - allowed 4 goals on 27 shots

On this road trip alone, each of the Flyers’ three goalies have been given an audition to take the starting reins and run with them - at least for a little while.

In reality, as all three of these goalies know, starting status can change on a dime.

Just two weeks ago, before the holiday break, fans were clamoring to let Boucher run with the job for a while. He was 6-0-1 in his previous 8 starts (including a no-decision) and his numbers were off the charts.

It feels like a year ago that Bobrovsky reeled off 11 straight wins as the Flyers catapulted to the top of the NHL standings.

Even with a 1-2-0 run on this road trip, before the Flyers head home for 3 days of practice before traveling up the NJ Turnpike for a Thursday night contest with the Devils, the Flyers remain just two points out of the Eastern Conference lead behind Pittsburgh.

It’s important to keep in mind that the Flyers have two games in-hand on the Penguins.

They could jump to the top of the standings once again with a win tonight at Joe Louis Arena.

In the last 22 years, as you well know, that’s been easier said than done.

The Flyers are 0-13-2 at Joe Louis Arena in regular season contests since Nov. 4, 1988. That doesn’t include their miserable two-game sweep at the Joe in the 1997 Cup Finals that propelled the Red Wings to two straight Stanley Cups.

The Flyers haven’t scored more than 3 goals in their last 14 visits to Detroit.

Boucher figures to have his hands full tonight against the Wings, who are banged up, but are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Islanders on New Years Eve in New York.

Mike Modano, Pavel Datsyuk and Danny Cleary are all on injured reserve for the Wings and Patrick Eaves is expected to miss the game with an elbow injury. Henrik Zetterberg (back) is expected to play.

After starting the season 19-6-2, the Red Wings are just 5-3-2 in their last 10 games.

The Flyers were 14-0-3 in their last 17 trips to Vancouver, stretching all the way back to Jan. 17, 1989, heading into their matchup with the Canucks on Tuesday night. That streak ended abruptly. What’s one more streak from the 80’s?

ZHERDEV OUT? Just based on Nik Zherdev’s ice time over the last two games - 11:44 and 9:36, respectively - and Peter Laviolette’s public unhappiness, it’s hard to imagine Zherdev will remain in the lineup this evening.

Zherdev was benched for the entire second period on Thursday night in Los Angeles. He went long stretches of not playing on Friday night.

The last two games, however, Laviolette did not have the luxury of a lineup change since Jody Shelley was serving his two-game suspension stemming from Tuesday’s loss in Vancouver.

Shelley is available again for the first time tonight.

Still, it’s hard to imagine that Zherdev’s talents cannot be used in a different, more productive way. He has not scored since posting 4 goals in 3 games ending on Dec. 18. But with 13 goals, Zherdev would be the leading scorer on Edmonton, Florida, Minnesota, Nashville, New Jersey, the Islanders, Ottawa, Phoenix and St. Louis.

Zherdev has 6 goals and 7 assists for 13 points in 25 career games against the Wings.

FUN FACT: This is Ville Leino's first game back in Detroit since being dealt to the Flyers last February.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers


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