GLENDALE – The Coyotes played Pittsburgh twice last season and won both games.
Center Joe Vitale, who missed those games because of injury but played 53 games for the Penguins in 2013-14, was impressed.
“After we lost to them there was definitely a sense of frustration in our room because they were a team that ran four lines really, really well,” Vitale said. “When a team is rolling four lines and playing at the pace that Phoenix did last year, that’s a very tough team to beat. That’s one of the things that has me so excited about playing for them now.”
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Vitale, 28, signed a three-year contract with the Coyotes on Tuesday.
“I like the pace the Coyotes play with, and the fact that they have 20 guys who are all on the same page and they all play for each other and they all play in the right system shift after shift,” Vitale said. “That can wear on teams. That’s something I remembered from watching them last year and it’s a really cool thing to be part of moving forward.”
Vitale notched a career-high 13 assists last season and was plus or even in 39 of 53 games. Despite playing just 10:58 per game, he ranked fourth among Penguins forwards with 89 hits.
Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney said he likes the way Vitale approaches the game and that expects the St. Louis native to chip in most significantly on penalty killing and in the face-off circles.
"We like the energy and physicality that he's going to bring to his role," Maloney said. "We're all about details to his game and he's got a lot of little details we like."
Vitale led Pittsburgh by winning 62.5 percent of his draws (200 of 320) last season – and an eye-popping 69.4 percent on home ice.
Vitale credits former Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato with helping him learn how to win draws consistently.
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“We spent time together after practices and he gave me a glimpse into a different world where he helped me scout the centers I’d be playing against on a given night, and the linesmen who would be in that game and their tendencies and habits,” Vitale said. “I felt that was a big thing for me.”
Vitale has played 163 NHL games over the past four seasons – all with Pittsburgh, the team that selected him with the 195th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
“To start with a new organization seems a little strange,” Vitale said. “I’ve kind of had to pinch myself a few times the past two days. Overall I’m excited and looking forward to the process moving forward and getting settled in Arizona and starting to play hockey. This is a great opportunity for me.”
He added, “I’ve heard nothing but great things about the players and the whole staff there so I’m eager to meet everyone and get started. It’s very thrilling for me to be part of this organization. My style fits into this team’s style very, very well. That’s why I was so interested in signing with them. I think this will work out well with the way I play the game.”