COYOTES (1-0-0) at PENGUINS (2-0-0)
Season series: The lone meeting in 2009-10 in this inter-conference battle. Phoenix won last season's only meeting, 4-1 on Oct. 30 in Glendale, Ariz., behind a pair of goals by captain Shane Doan. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov made 27 saves.
Big Story: The Penguins are a model franchise in more ways than one. Every hockey fan remembers them lifting the Stanley Cup back in June, but NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman pointed to Pittsburgh in his reasoning as to why the Coyotes can succeed playing in Phoenix. What many of those same fans might not remember is the Penguins were once struggling monetarily and in danger of being relocated; under new ownership, which includes former superstar Mario Lemieux, they're now defending champions with a new building opening up next season.
Coyotes -- Beginning the Dave Tippett era in style, Phoenix received a pair of goals from Radim Vrbata and 30 saves from Bryzgalov in a 6-3 win at Los Angeles in its opener on Saturday. This is the second in a three-game road swing that also takes the Coyotes to Buffalo on Thursday, before they return to Glendale on Saturday for their home opener against Columbus.
"I like this group," Tippett said at Monday's practice. "They've got a lot of enthusiasm. They're jumping in, putting the work in and hopefully that gets us the results we want."
Penguins -- After winning a pair of one-goal games against Atlantic Division rivals (3-2 in its home opener against the Rangers, and 4-3 over the Islanders in a road shootout), Pittsburgh gets its first look at a Western Conference opponent. The Penguins understand there won't be any easy nights during their title defense.
"I don't think we are completely happy with where we are at yet," forward Matt Cooke said. "We had a good game against the Rangers, I felt, but we still had a couple breakdowns. I understand it is the start of the season and back-to-back (games).
"We came out strong in the third period on Long Island, but I know we have better. We expect more from ourselves."
Who's Hot -- One player who seems thrilled to be back in the desert is Vrbata, who scored a career-high 27 goals for the Coyotes two seasons ago. He then left for Tampa Bay and never got going last season, eventually returning to the Czech Republic to finish out the season before re-signing this summer with Phoenix.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby hardly looks bothered by a preseason groin issue, registering a goal in each of his first two games and adding the second shootout goal that ended Saturday's game on Long Island.
Injury Report -- Free-agent signing Taylor Pyatt remains out for Phoenix due to a lower-body injury. Pittsburgh will be without Game 7 hero Maxime Talbot for the first half of the season after undergoing offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum.
Stat Pack -- Friday night's telecast of the Penguins' season opening 2009-10 game versus the Rangers registered a 10.5 average rating on FSN Pittsburgh, according to Nielsen Media Research. The telecast, viewed by more than 120,500 households in Pittsburgh, set a new record rating as the highest ever for a Penguins season opening game telecast on the network.
Puck Drop -- No offense to the Kings, who expect to be improved this season, but this game will provide a much bigger measuring stick as to how far the Coyotes have come.
-- Brian Hunter, NHL.com