DALLAS – The news was worse than the Flyers could have ever hoped.

Michael Leighton's magical run as the Flyers' savior is over.

According to Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, Leighton will be out for 8-to-10 weeks with a "severe" left high ankle sprain.

A normal high ankle sprain probably would've kept Leighton off the ice for 3 or 4 weeks, just in time for the start of the NHL playoffs. Leighton said he "heard a pop" when he was leaning back to make a save in the first period against Nashville on Tuesday.

Without him, the Flyers will have to rely on backup Brian Boucher for their stretch run and most likely the first two playoff rounds – should they make it that far. The regular season ends on April 11.

Tonight (8:30 p.m. game time) is Boucher's first start since Dec. 21.

Even if Leighton is healthy enough to return and the Flyers were still playing in the second or third round, it would be hard to vacate Boucher from the net.

Boucher last saw action in the playoffs in 2008 with San Jose, when he was called in to bail out Sharks starter Evgeni Nabokov. He did carry the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2000… 10 years ago!

While we're at it, let's squash the rumors that the Flyers have interest in signing former goalie Robert Esche. Yes, Esche wrapped up his fine season in the Russian Kontinental League – and his play could earn a contract – but Esche would not be eligible for the playoffs since he wasn't on the team roster by the March 3 trade deadline.

It would be nice to have a backup with NHL experience but why delay the inevitable with Boucher and force him to find rhythm in the first game of the playoffs.

The truth: the Flyers will live and die with Boucher.

ALSO: The Flyers could be without forward Scott Hartnell for tonight's game in Dallas.

Hartnell was the only Flyer to miss the team's morning skate at the American Airlines Center, his jersey and equipment hung neatly in his locker.

Holmgren said in a text message to the Daily News that Hartnell is "OK" but teammates said Hartnell is sick, possibly suffering from some sort of stomach virus.

Both Ville Leino and Darroll Powe said they are in the lineup tonight but Peter Laviolette said he "wasn't sure yet" who was going to play.

Here were the lines this morning:

Gagne – Richards – Carcillo
Leino – Carter - Briere
Van Riemsdyk – Giroux - Asham
Powe – Betts – Laperriere

I'd say that lineup is subject to change. Arron Asham skated for a long time after practice – usually reserved for healthy scratches – so he could be out if Hartnell is better.

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