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NHL opens season Thursday

Oct. 5, 2011 at 8:50 PM   |   Comments

BOSTON, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- The Boston Bruins, just four months after winning their first Stanley Cup title in 39 years, begin defense of that crown Thursday on opening night in the NHL.

Boston will again celebrate its league championship prior to hosting Philadelphia in one of three games that will mark the start of a campaign in which one franchise will have a new home and a superstar player will at least temporarily remain out of action.

The Bruins rolled to the Stanley Cup last season behind the goaltending of Tim Thomas, who during the playoffs had a 1.98 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage.

Although he won the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender and the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs, Thomas continues to find himself in a battle for the starting goaltending spot with the Bruins.

Boston Coach Claude Julien said this week that he considers both Thomas and Tuukka Rask as starting goaltenders. Thomas is expected to get the start Thursday against the Flyers.

In the other two opening-night encounters, Montreal will visit Toronto and Pittsburgh will be at Vancouver, which reached the Stanley Cup finals last season before falling in four straight to the Bruins.

Pittsburgh will open the season without Sidney Crosby, who last played on Jan. 5. He missed the second half of the 2010-11 campaign with a concussion suffered in a game against Tampa Bay.

Crosby was leading the league with 32 goals when he was injured and was well on his way to breaking his personal best of 51 goals scored during the 2009-10 season.

He has skated with his teammates during training camp, but has yet to be cleared for full contact.

Anaheim, Los Angeles, Buffalo and the New York Rangers will open their seasons in Europe with a pair of games each beginning Friday.

The Winnipeg Jets will begin their season Sunday at home against Montreal. The Jets moved after last season from Atlanta and will play this year in the Southeast Division before the league goes through a realignment process.

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