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Rejuvenated Prucha plays pivotal part in win

by Brian Compton
DETROIT -- That confidence Petr Prucha played with in New York a short time ago seems to be back and stronger than ever in Phoenix.
Prucha, a healthy scratch time and time again last season with the Rangers before being dealt at the 2009 trade deadline to Phoenix, has once again established himself with the Coyotes. The former 30-goal scorer had a goal and an assist on Sunday afternoon as his team took a 2-1 series lead with a 4-2 victory against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
"I finally have my spot in the lineup," said Prucha, who had 30 goals for New York in 2005-06 and 22 the following season before falling out of favor with the coaching staff. "It's always good to feel that you're important for the team and you can make something on the ice. I feel great."
Prucha enjoyed a solid regular season -- his first full campaign with the club -- as he went 13-9-22 in 79 games. He helped set the tone for the Coyotes on Sunday, when he set up Sami Lepisto's game-opening goal just 29 seconds into the first period.
"That was huge," Prucha said. "First shift, we had a 1-0 lead so we calmed down a little bit and took the momentum from them. We just kept going."
Prucha later scored what proved to be the game-winner as he beat Jimmy Howard on a nifty give-and-go with Radim Vrbata at 8:16 of the third. Prucha, along with Vrbata and linemate Martin Hanzal, combined for four points and a plus-7 rating on Sunday.
"That line, they compete hard, they do good things with the puck," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "When they chip in with some goals, that's really a bonus. They play against top players all the time. They're a group that really works well together."
Prucha's production doesn't surprise Tippett in the least. After all, the 27-year-old proved long ago that he can score at this level.
"He's been a very good player for us all year," Tippett said. "I thought the last couple of weeks of the (regular) season and the first three games of the playoffs, he's been very good. Great work ethic. He's relentless on the puck, and that's what we need from that whole group."
The whole group overcame another obstacle on Sunday, when it lost captain Shane Doan to an upper-body injury during the second period. It was a tremendous way to respond after the Red Wings handed them a 7-4 loss in Game 2 on Friday night at Arena.
"It's great for our confidence," Prucha said. "They stole one game from us in our house, and now we were able to do it in their house and we still have one more opportunity to do it one more time."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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