Leighton deserves start

Michael Leighton, who is 8-1-1 in his 10 starts as a Flyer, may have to step aside as Ray Emery returns from an injury. (Yong Kim/Staff file photo)

WASHINGTON – Michael Leighton knows.

So does Ray Emery and Brian Boucher. So do the rest of the Flyers, for that matter.

Peter Laviolette made the decision on who is goaltender will be on Sunday, when the Flyers take on the Capitals here in Washington. He just hasn’t told anyone outside the organization yet.

“We will probably sit on this one until game time and go from there,” Laviolette said Saturday. “I know they all want to play.”

That’s no lie. But if Boucher and Emery were Leighton, as Laviolette admitted this week, they would want to be given another start. Leighton is 8-1-1 in 12 starts (including one no-decision) with the Flyers.

His first loss came last game in Toronto. Laviolette reiterated again on Saturday that the Flyers left Leighton out to dry.

Believe it or not, I think Thursday was one of Leighton’s best starts as a Flyer. No goalie in the NHL would have stopped at least three of Toronto’s four goals. Not only were they perfectly placed in the top corner, Leighton had multiple options to worry about besides just the shooter – as many of those goals came on odd-man rushes.

Unfortunately for Leighton, that doesn’t mean he will be given another start.

A loss – his first one – is the perfect excuse to give Emery back the job he lost when he went down with an abdominal tear.

But here’s why Emery should not start:

His last NHL game was on Dec. 5. It was Laviolette’s first game as the Flyers’ bench boss. Do you remember the opponent?

That’s right, the Washington Capitals. Emery let in 5 goals on 17 shots and was pulled just 11 minutes into the second period. The Flyers went on to lose 8-2.

Obviously, Emery was not healthy at the time. He had surgery to repair that tear four days later.

But Alex Ovechkin (62 points in 39 games), fresh off a 5 point performance against those Leafs on Friday night, and the Capitals are a tough team to face when you’ve been off for more than six weeks. Washington averages 3.68 goals per game, more than .41 goals per game closer than the next most lethal team in the NHL.

During this run, Laviolette has said all along that Leighton deserves to be back in net for the next game.

That’s still true. Especially after Thursday’s loss. He has helped the Flyers focus on not just making the playoffs - something that seemed doubtful before he started - but look towards home ice advantage.

Slap shots
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said both Darroll Powe (upper body injury) and Scott Hartnell (flu) will be ready to play on Sunday … According to the Washington Post, Brian Pothier and John Erskine are still questionable for Sunday. Alex Semin did not practice on Saturday (sore wrist).

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter at http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.