Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins and the Flyers kick off the NHL schedule with a Wednesday Night Rivalry game on NBC.

Hockey. Is. Back.

After three months of painful, anxious offseason, the NHL begins the 2014-15 schedule Wednesday night with a slate of four games. Kicking off the festivities are two Eastern Conference rivals in the Bruins and Flyers, two playoff teams from a year ago, and two teams that know each other very well.

This is a pair of teams that, on paper, didn’t really improve much this offseason.

The Bruins came with one victory of reaching the Eastern Conference Final last season, but then let Jarome Iginla walk this summer and recently traded Johnny Boychuk to Long Island. On the Philadelphia side, the Flyers traded Scott Hartnell for R.J. Umberger, what could only be considered a lateral move at best, while they’ll be without Kimmo Timonen for an extended period on an already thin blue line.

Philadelphia was a team that took a while to get going a season ago, and the Flyers ended up sneaking into the postseason picture late in the regular season. The Bruins were consistently atop the East, but in a conference this season with a ton of parity and no clear-cut top dog, anything could happen.

This should be a physical contest, with players on each side who are familiar with that area of the game. Wayne Simmonds, whose status for this season opener was unclear for a while due to a foot injury, is all set to play for Philadelphia.

For the Bruins, David Krejci, who signed a long-term extension this summer, is out for Wednesday’s contest with an undisclosed injury. With him Kreici and the aforementioned Iginla not in the lineup, the Bruins begin …read more