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Flyers vs. Bruins preview: The season begins at TD Garden in Boston

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The Flyers are in Boston for tonight's season opener against the Bruins.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

BOSTON -- Ah, it's here. After 161 days, the Philadelphia Flyers are back on the ice tonight at TD Garden, taking on the Boston Bruins in the season opener.

We're tentative as we head into the 2014-15 campaign, knowing full well that it's going to be a tough go this year. The defense is not as good as it was a year ago, and we worry about how that's going to impact Steve Mason's career resurgence. We worry about the Flyers as an even strength team generally, with not much hope that they'll be able to improve upon pedestrian numbers from last season.

But here's the thing: there aren't many strong teams in this Eastern Conference or this Metropolitan Division, and we could truthfully picture the Flyers finishing anywhere from second place to seventh in the division. It's that up in the air. With that in mind, there's a lot to look forward to this season:

  • The hopeful coming out party for Brayden Schenn, now a first line player
  • The continued growth of Claude Giroux, one of hockey's best players
  • The continued growth of Jakub Voracek, quickly becoming an elite player
  • The offensive potential of the Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds, now linemates
  • One of the best special teams clubs in hockey
  • A fourth line that actually has some skill and can beat opposing fourth lines consistently
  • Maybe, at some point, the addition of Shayne Gostisbehere or Robert Hagg as an NHL defenseman
  • The first full season under coach Craig Berube and general manager Ron Hextall
  • A heated playoff race that, win or lose, should be fun until the final day of the season

That's just to name a few things. There's plenty to watch for and root for this season with these Flyers, and only time will tell just how good or bad they'll be.

One thing we do know is that tonight's opponent, the Bruins, is one of the few elite teams in the East. They didn't make many improvements this offseason either, losing Jarome Iginla in free agency and losing Johnny Boychuk to a trade just last week. Their defense is certainly downgraded with the loss of Boychuk, but they're still led by Zdeno Chara, they still have Tuukka Rask in goal, and they still have a potent offensive attack that should keep them atop the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.

Tonight, the Bruins will be without David Krejci, who has an undisclosed injury. They also will not use the services of Simon Gagne just yet. He's skating with the team but has yet to sign a contract with the Bruins, so he won't face his old club this evening.

Steve Mason is your starting goaltender for the Flyers, backed up by Ray Emery. Boston will go with Rask, backed up Niklas Svedberg.

Philadelphia Flyers at Boston Bruins

7:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m.
TD Garden in Boston, Mass., USA

In Philly: NBCSN, NBCSports.com, 93.3 WMMR, SiriusXM
In Boston: NBCSN, NBCSports.com, 98.5 The Sports Hub, SiriusXM
Across the United States: NBCSN, NBCSports.com, SiriusXM
Everywhere else: NHL Center Ice or GameCenter Live