PITTSBURGH -- Philadelphia Flyers
coach Peter Laviolette
has no intention of easing rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky
Bobrovsky, the talk of Flyers training camp due to his fantastic play and poise between the pipes, will get the nod in Philadelphia's season opener Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins
(7 p.m. ET, VERSUS) at a sold-out Consol Energy Center. Veteran Brian Boucher
, who admitted being a tad shocked by the decision, will serve as Bobrovsky's backup.
"I'm a bit shocked, surprised," Boucher said. "I know Sergei had a great camp and it came down to a coach's decision and that's the way it goes. We'll move forward and take it day-by-day. As far as I'm concerned, I felt good about my training camp. I don't think this is a reflection on that. I just feel Sergei also had a great camp and (Laviolette) went with his gut."
Laviolette said after the team's afternoon skate that his decision was based more on Bobrovsky's complete body of work over the last month of the preseason. The 22-year-old Russian, who signed a free-agent contract May 6, finished 3-0-1 with a 1.76 goals-against average and .939 save percentage in five games.
"It's not just based on one day or two. From the time he's been here, he's been sharp every game, every situation, every practice, every scrimmage. He's looked really good and I think Boosh (Boucher) came in and played well. It's nice to have two goaltenders and you'll see both of them early in the season. But we had to have a starting point somewhere and I really liked (Bobrovsky's) body of work the last month … he's been sharp every day."
-- Flyers coach Peter Laviolette
"It's not just based on one day or two," Laviolette said. "From the time he's been here, he's been sharp every game, every situation, every practice, every scrimmage. He's looked really good and I think Boosh (Boucher) came in and played well. It's nice to have two goaltenders and you'll see both of them early in the season. But we had to have a starting point somewhere and I really liked (Bobrovsky's) body of work the last month … he's been sharp every day."
Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger
-- who is unlikely to play tonight, as he's still feeling the effects of offseason arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in August -- wasn't too surprised with the decision.
"I thought he played very well in the preseason," Pronger said. "He's a very athletic goalie and moves side to side very fast. I didn't see a lot of the road games, but I thought he played very well overall. I'm sure there's excitement on his part because it's his first NHL game. It's an opportunity for him to showcase his talents and make a name for himself."
After the Flyers learned Michael Leighton
would be sidelined a month with a bulging disc in his back, General Manager Paul Holmgren
reiterated he would not add another goalie from outside the organization. Perhaps the fact Bobrovsky had such a strong camp was the primary reason.
Bobrovsky had spent the last three seasons with Metallurg Novokuznetsk in the Kontinental Hockey League, and he posted a .919 save percentage and 2.72 GAA in 35 games last season. Now he'll get the opportunity to strut his stuff against Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby
and Evgeni Malkin
"He was really happy when I told him," Laviolette said of Bobrovsky. "He can understand everything I say (but) it's just tough for him to verbalize what he wants to say back. But he's excited to get the start. Based on how this kid has played the last 30 days, I feel confident and the team feels confident in front of him."
While Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk
wasn't privy to the decision immediately following practice, he felt confident with whoever was in net.
"We're confident in both those guys since both did a great job in the preseason," van Riemsdyk told NHL.com. "He came in and did some good things. He had that shootout win earlier in the season. We'll play hard in front of him and he'll do the rest."
Laviolette admitted the decision had nothing to do with the opponent.
"If we were playing someone else tonight, I don't think I would have changed my decision," he said. "It's not based on the opponent. He's looked good and he'll start."
Boucher graciously stayed after practice to speak with the media for as long as needed, despite the disappointing news.
"This decision won't reflect the way I feel about myself at all," he said. "If I had a terrible camp, then maybe there would be some self-doubt, but I had a great camp and feel like last year, when it was on the line, I did what was asked and I feel good about that."
Boucher went 1-1-0 in the preseason with a 1.90 GAA and .939 save percentage in four games.
"I've had so many challenges in my life that this isn't that big a deal," Boucher said. "If you want to sit down, we can talk about all the challenges. It's just … I come to the rink and do my job and work hard to stay sharp. I know things can change on a dime. We saw that last year. You just have to be ready at all times."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale