(Sports Network) - The St. Louis Blues will kick off their 2010-11 season at home tonight when they welcome the Philadelphia Flyers for a battle at Scottrade Center.
After making the postseason in 2008-09, the Blues were kept out of the playoffs last year for the fourth time in five seasons. St. Louis fired head coach Andy Murray, a finalist for the Jack Adams Award in 2008-09, after his club went 17-17-6 to start 2009-10. However, St. Louis picked things up after Murray's dismissal and Davis Payne's 23-15-4 record the rest of the way was enough to ensure he'd be back behind the bench this season.
This year's Blues will be without a trio of veterans as Keith Tkachuk and Daryl Sydor have officially retired and Paul Kariya, who is currently a free agent, will sit out at least the 2010-11 season due to post-concussion syndrome.
St. Louis is still a very young team with a bevy of talented prospects, including defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, and the club landed goaltender Jaroslav Halak in an offseason trade. The Blues hope Halak, who is expected to start tonight, can continue to play the way he did last spring when he willed the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference finals.
After the trade for Halak, the Blues signed the 25-year-old Slovakian to a four-year, $15 million deal. Halak went 26-13-5 with a 2.40 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in 45 games with the Habs in 2009-10
The Blues top offensive player a year ago was winger Andy McDonald, who led the club in points with 57 and was tied with Alex Steen for the team lead in goals with 24. McDonald has been bothered by a hip flexor, but is expected to play tonight.
St. Louis hopes Pietrangelo -- the fourth overall pick of the 2008 draft -- can make positive contributions to the blue line this year. The 20-year-old joins the 2006 No. 1 overall pick Erik Johnson to give the Blues a pair of superb defensive prospects. Pietrangelo played in nine games for St. Louis last year before being sent back to his junior club.
The Flyers, meanwhile, won their opening game of the season, posting a 3-2 victory Thursday evening in Pittsburgh. Claude Giroux's short-handed goal in the third period lifted Philadelphia to a 3-2 win in what was the first regular-season game at Pittsburgh's new arena, Consol Energy Center.
Blair Betts and Danny Briere also scored for the Flyers, who started rookie Sergei Bobrovsky between the pipes. In his NHL debut, Bobrovsky made 29 saves.
"He played a very good game -- especially in the first period, he was very strong," said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette about Bobrovsky.
It's uncertain if Bobrovsky or Brian Boucher will get the start tonight. The duo will handle goaltending duties while Michael Leighton, who is scheduled to have back surgery, is on injured reserve. Leighton, a playoff hero for Philadelphia last year and the club's No. 1 goaltender, is expected to miss the first six-to-eight weeks of the season.
"It was based on a body of work over 30 days (the preseason) and what we've seen of him since he has been with us," said Laviolette of his decision to start Bobrovsky over the veteran Boucher. "Both goaltenders will play early in the season. This was not a nod to make (Bobrovsky) the starter."
Flyers top defenseman Chris Pronger missed the season opener as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery and he is questionable again tonight. Pronger played nine seasons in St. Louis and won the Hart and Norris Trophies while a member of the Blues.
Philadelphia notched a 2-1 shootout victory over the visiting Blues in the only meeting between the clubs last year and the Flyers have taken nine of 11 overall in the series. St. Louis has also lost six of nine and eight of its last 12 home tests against the Flyers.