NHL on NBCSN: Flyers, Bruins open season with plenty to prove

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NBCSN will begin its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign tonight when the Boston Bruins host the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

For the Flyers and Bruins, the wait will finally end tonight. After being eliminated in seven games by the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens respectively, both teams are looking to do more despite being prevented from making major upgrades due to the salary cap.

In fact, an argument could be made that Boston and Philadelphia both took a step back over the summer. The Bruins watched 30-goal scorer Jarome Iginla walk away as an unrestricted free agent and recently dealt top-four defenseman Johnny Boychuk in the interest of freeing cap space. On top of that, their points leader in 2013-14, David Krejci, will start the campaign on the injured reserve list due to an undisclosed problem.

That’s a huge gap in their offense compared to 2013-14, but the Bruins are hoping Loui Eriksson can help fill the void. His first season with the Bruins was derailed due to multiple concussions, but after having the summer to regroup, he’ll get a chance to put his past struggles behind him.

At least Krejci might not be out for long; the Philadelphia Flyers haven’t been so fortunate with their players. They have no idea when defenseman Kimmo Timonen (blood clots) will be back or if he will return at all. That’s problematic because while the Bruins have a young core that’s capable of filling the void left by Boychuk, Philadelphia’s defense was a significant question mark even before Timonen’s injury.

“You don’t replace Timonen, a very good defenseman, intelligent,” coach Craig Berube told CSN Philly. “But as a group, they can replace him. Or try to, to a certain extent. They’ve got to all step up and play good. I think our D core, all seven of them that are here (Nick Schultz is the team’s current seventh defenseman), are very capable of getting the job done.”

Michael Del Zotto might help in that regard. He started the 2013-14 campaign as a projected top-four defenseman with the New York Rangers, but fell from grace to the point where the Rangers sent him to Nashville, which didn’t even retain his rights as a restricted free agent. The 24-year-old had to wait until August before he signed with Philadelphia and who knows what his situation would be if Timonen was healthy.

He’s going into this season with a lot to prove, which sums up these two teams nicely. Both would like to demonstrate that they’re as strong as ever despite their summer setbacks. They both want to assert themselves as serious contenders for the Stanley Cup and that battle starts tonight.