Fans at Arena were in a festive mood upon the return of the Coyotes on Saturday. ((Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press))

After playing in front of a sold-out crowd in their home opener, the real test for the Phoenix Coyotes franchise will come this Thursday when the St. Louis Blues are in town.

Gone are the $25 US lower-bowl and $15 upper-bowl tickets that helped attract a full house on Saturday against Columbus.

Back are the regular-priced seats the franchise has had so much trouble selling in recent years — so much so that owner Jerry Moyes took the club into bankruptcy protection.

A second sellout seems unlikely.

For the Blues game, two lower-bowl tickets located just four rows behind the penalty boxes at centre ice are selling at $648.85 for two, or $324.43 each, on Ticketmaster.

The upper-bowl seats will start at $35.75 each.

There are some deals for ticket buyers, however. Every Thursday, an upper-level ticket that includes unlimited nachos, popcorn, peanuts and fountain pop can be bought for $30. On Fridays and Saturdays, family packs can be had for $25 each for upper-level seats, and $55 for lower-bowl seats. There are also discounts for students and the U.S. military.

Despite the team's attendance woes, remaining Coyotes fans remain defiant.

"Just because the team has struggled financially doesn't mean there isn't a passionate fan base here in Phoenix," Daniel Artiaga said on last week. "I think that both the fans and the team are going to surprise people this year."

Fans coming to Saturday's opening game were given white T-shirts that they waved wildly in the early going. But they were silenced after a first-period goal from Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash.

 "It's too bad we couldn't find something to make them erupt like they wanted to," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said of the match. "I think the players sensed that. We were looking for something to energize them and we didn't get it done."

Phoenix fans earned a reprieve last month when U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Redfield T. Baum rejected BlackBerry tycoon Jim Basillie's bid to buy the team and move it to Hamilton. Baum said a competing bid from the NHL itself should go ahead, under certain conditions.

But the league has indicated that if it can't eventually find a local buyer for the franchise, it may be relocated anyway.

With files from The Associated Press