Emery's return in sight; Winter Classic ratings dip

    Flyers goalie Ray Emery continued to make strides at Monday morning's practice in Voorhees.

    Emery was examined by Dr. William Meyers in the afternoon, and the Flyers said he was "ahead of schedule."

      GM Paul Holmgren hinted that Emery could be activated as soon as Saturday, which would be 12 days earlier than expected.

     Emery has not played since Dec. 5 _ four days before he underwent abdominal surgery.

      When Emery returns, the Flyers may carry three goalies for a while, Holmgren said.

     Holmgren also denied a published report that said defenseman Ryan Parent had a herniated disc in his back. Holmgren said the "lower-body injury" _ he refused to be specific _ was minor and that Parent was day to day.

    The Flyers start the second half of the season Wednesday against visiting Toronto.

    For those who hoped the Flyers' 7 p.m. home game Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning would be moved so fans could watch the Eagles' 8 p.m. playoff game in Dallas, well, it's not going to happen.

    A Flyers official  said NHL teams must have at least 24 hours between the start of games, and Tampa plays at New Jersey at 7 on Friday night.

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    The Boston Bruins' thrilling 2-1 overtime win over the Flyers in the Winter Classic from Fenway Park drew a 2.6 overnight rating on NBC New Year's Day _ down 10 percent from a 2.9 for last year's Red Wings-Blackhawks game, but even with the Penguins-Sabres Classic in '07, according to the Sports Business Daily.

   Despite the decline, the 2.6 rating is tied as the second-highest for a regular-season NHL telecast since '96.

   A national rating point represents about 1,145,000 households, or one percent of the country's estimated 114.5 million TV homes.

    Locally, the game was a sensational hit in Boston _ a 14.4 rating, compared to a 9.4 average for Red Sox games last season, published reports said. But it was a different story in Philadelphia because of stiff competition. According to Sports Media Watch, Penn State's New Year's Day victory over LSU in the Capital One Bowl earned a 10 rating/19 share for 6ABC. The Mummers Parade on myPHL17 was second place with a 6 rating/12 share, and the Winter Classic was third with a 6 rating/11 share.

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   One final thought on the Winter Classic: The best part was the huge turnout of Flyers fans. There were perhaps 8,000 to 10,000 fans wearing orange, and their back-and-forth chants with Bruins fans gave Fenway Park an Army-Navy atmosphere.

   Yes, iconic Fenway Paa-hk had a lot to do with making the Classic special, but kudos to the Flyers fans for traveling the the game, en masse, and giving it the feel of a major event.

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   The Flyers will wear their Winter Classic jerseys in Wednesday's game against Toronto.