By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Eric Brewer has had his share of ailments the last three seasons. From shoulder surgery to a sciatic nerve issue to a minor knee ailment. Plus, factoring in all the criticism from a number of Blues fans, the Blues' captain has had his share of challenges.
But as the 2010-11 season unveils here tonight at Scottrade Center, Brewer, 31, says that while all players continuously deal with minor ailments, he enters the game against the Philadelphia Flyers with a relatively clean bill of health. And he's looking forward to staying that way.
"I feel pretty good," Brewer said Saturday morning. "There's always something, but it's a good start for me for sure. I'm happy with it."
Brewer spent the summer with some basic core strength exercises. It was the best course of action to get his body in the kind of shape he needed to be in entering a training camp with no injuries to worry about.
"Lots of guys get hurt and you have to use the summer for that and do the best you can," Brewer said. "I obviously want to play very well and play strong and just be that reliable guy that I've always been. I just want to help push this team forward and get a lot better. We're certainly on the right path. It's been nice.
"You want to feel good on your skates, you want to get in some games and find some line combos, work on some things individually as well."
Brewer says that while expectations are high in the outside world as far as the Blues are concerned, he's taking the approach in cliche style: one game at a time.
"Expectations are good and being prepared for the grind and challenging ourselves and teammates, but I think that's where we're at," he said. "Every night is a bear, to be honest with you. There's lots of good teams out there and there's lots of teams trying to get better. There's no nights off. We'll take all comers, Philly included, and we'll see where we stack up."
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With two home games to begin the season, the Blues need to be focused on righting the ship here at Scottrade Center, where they finished 18-18-5 a season ago but started out 4-14-3.
"Obviously, you can't change things from the past, but you try and learn from the mistakes and things that went wrong," forward B.J. Crombeen said. "It's not that we weren't prepared last year, but it's every single time you step on that ice, every single thing you do is all geared toward getting better each day. It's a process. You can't worry about the 10th game at home. We're worrying about our first game."
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Another day on the ice for center Vladimir Sobotka and another good outing for the Trebic, Czech Republic native.
Sobotka, who continues to recover from off-season left shoulder surgery, is anxiously awaiting his date with team doctors in Boston to clear him for full contact.
Sobotka will miss tonight's game against the Flyers and also Monday's matinee affair with Anaheim.
"I'm trying to get into game-shape, start feeling like I'm going to play soon," Sobotka said. "I felt great today, but I just have to wait until I go see the doctor in Boston and see what he is going to say. We'll see.
"The shoulder feels great. I've been skating with the guys, I've been skating alone. It's the coach's decision when he feels I can play, but first, the doctor in Boston has to make that decision."
Sobotka is slowly but surely making limited contact during on-ice drills.
"I can skate, I can do everything, I can shoot, but the contact, I still can't do that too much yet," Sobotka said. "I feel better and better. I'm doing the rehab every day, I work out every day. I feel very comfortable."
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No surprises as far as forward line combos are concerned:
David Perron-David Backes-Brad Boyes
Andy McDonald-Patrik Berglund-T.J. Oshie
Alex Steen-Jay McClement-B.J. Crombeen
Brad Winchester-Matt D'Agostini-Cam Janssen
The D-pairings will feature:
Barret Jackman-Erik Johnson
Eric Brewer-Roman Polak
Carlo Colaiacovo-Alex Pietrangelo
Tyson Strachan is the healthy scratch.
Jaroslav Halak will make his long-anticipated Blues regular season debut against the team that eliminated his former team, the Montreal Canadiens, from the Eastern Conference final a season ago.
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The Flyers, who opened the season with a 3-2 win at Pittsburgh on Thursday, are expected to roll out the following lines:
Dan Carcillo-Mike Richards-Jeff Carter
Scott Hartnell-Daniel Briere-Ville Leino
James van Riemsdyk-Claude Giroux-Nikolay Zherdev
Jody Shelley-Blair Betts-Darroll Powe
The defensive pairings include:
Kimmo Timonen-Braydon Coburn
Matt Carle-Andrej Meszaros
Sean O-Donnell-Oskars Bartulis
Chris Pronger (knee) will sit out once again tonight.
Brian Boucher will get the start in goal after rookie Sergei Bobrovsky earned the start Thursday. Starter Michael Leighton (back) will have surgery on Monday and be out 6-8 weeks.