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Penguins vs. Coyotes Game Preview

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins

Home: 2-4-0-4
Road: 4-3-1-9

WHEN: Nov. 6, 2010 - 9:00 pm   |   WHERE: Arena
FSN  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
Phoenix Coyotes
Home: 2-2-2-6

  Pittsburgh Penguins at Phoenix Coyotes 
Lee Stempniak
F  -  #22
  4 Goals
  3 Assists
  7 Points
• Was arguably the best pickup at last season’s trading deadline after lighting the lamp 14 times in 18 games after arriving in a deal from Toronto.
• His four goals and seven points thus far this season are both the highest totals among all Phoenix forwards.
• Was college teammates at Dartmouth with Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy and Pittsburgh prospect Nick Johnson during the 2004-05 season.
Scottie Upshall
F  -  #8
  3 Goals
  1 Assist
  4 Points
• Was well on his way to crushing his previous career highs last season when he suffered a season-ending knee injury on Jan. 28.
• Despite the injury, he still found a way to record career highs with 18 goals and four game-winning goals, while reaching double figures in goals for the third straight season.
• Was originally drafted sixth overall by the Nashville Predators in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft when current Penguins general manager Ray Shero was an assistant GM there.
Ilya Bryzgalov
G  -  #30
  4 Wins
2.83 GAA
.916 SVP
• Has been a brick wall for the Coyotes since being claimed off waivers from the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 17, 2007.
• During his three seasons with Phoenix, has won at least 26 games every season and has picked up 14 shutouts, including a career-best eight last season.
• Posted a 3-1 record for the Ducks in relief of Jean-Sebastien Giguere during the 2007 postseason and helped Anaheim claim its only Stanley Cup championship.
A pair of teams that could each use a victory to break out of recent funks square off on Saturday night at Arena when the Phoenix Coyotes play host to the Penguins. Phoenix, which was one of the Cinderella stories last season, currently resides in the Pacific Division basement, owners of the Western Conference’s second-worst record at 4-5-3.

Why have the Coyotes struggled to get going this season? That answer is simple – a lack of goal scoring by their big guns.

Through Friday, the Coyotes have received a combined one goal from arguably their top three goal scorers – captain Shane Doan (who has the goal), offseason free-agent signee Ray Whitney and Wojtek Wolski. Last season, those three players combined for 62 goals.

In fact, among the Coyotes top three scorers, two of them are defensemen, including leading scorer Ed Jovanovski, who paces the team with nine points (3G-6A). Jovanovski is coming off of a hat trick on Nov. 3 against Nashville.

Fellow blueliner Keith Yandle, a Boston native, continues to fly under the radar as one of the most underrated defensemen in the game. Last year, Yandle, who excels both offensively and defensively, established career highs across the board in goals (12), assists (29), points (41) and rating (plus-16).

Between the pipes, the Coyotes return one of last season’s Vezina Trophy (best goaltender) finalists in Russian backstop Ilya Bryzgalov. The 30-year-old netminder, who pitched a 24-save shutout against the Penguins on Oct. 7 of last season at Mellon Arena, has actually posted a similar save percentage (.916) this year as he did last year (.920), but he isn’t getting the same offensive support as he did a season ago when he won a career-best 42 games.
  • Penguins defenseman Kris Letang continues to shine through the first month of the season. The fourth-year blueliner recorded his fourth multiple-point game of the season on Friday night at Anaheim, moving him into a tie with Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom at the top of the defensive scoring chart with 13 points (3G-10A). Letang has notched at least a point in six of his past nine contests.
  • Forward Pascal Dupuis returned to the lineup on Friday night after missing Wednesday’s game in Dallas due to the birth of his daughter, Lola. Dupuis picked up right where he left off, assisting on Sidney Crosby’s third-period goal to give him points in three of the past four games for a total of four (3G-1A) during the stretch. Dupuis’ five shots against Anaheim were a season high.
  • Pittsburgh’s penalty killing unit is riding a heat wave which has seen it kill off 28 of its past 30 times shorthanded (93.3 percent). That stretch has allowed the Penguins to move up to 8th in the NHL on the PK (86.7 percent). The Penguins have gone three straight games without surrendering a power-play goal.
  • The Penguins continue to rank as the NHL’s most physical team, pacing the league with 421 hits as a team. Individually, Matt Cooke (47 hits; t-3rd), Chris Kunitz (37; t-12th) and Brooks Orpik (37; t-12) each rank among the league leaders.
  • Four Penguins have previously suited up for the Coyotes during their career. Among the quartet, Zbynek Michalek spent the most time in a Phoenix sweater, appearing in 393 games with the Coyotes before signing with Pittsburgh on July 1. Mike Comrie tied his career high in scoring with Phoenix when he tallied 60 points (30G-30A) in 2005-06. Forward Mike Rupp and goaltender Brent Johnson had brief cups of coffee with the Coyotes.


Score First: In a battle between two teams struggling a bit right now, the first goal is going to be very important. When the Penguins strike first, they are 4-1 on the season. On the flip side, when Pittsburgh surrenders the opening tally, they are just 2-6-1.

Power Play:
The Penguins were able to end a long power-play goalless stretch when Sidney Crosby tallied on the man-advantage late in the second period on Friday. Pittsburgh has a chance to build upon that goal, as the Coyotes will bring the NHL’s fifth-worst PK unit into Saturday’s matchup with a success rate of just 77.4 percent.
C Jordan Staal, foot/broken right hand (up to 6 weeks)
Crosby (8) Stempniak (4)
Letang (10) Jovanovski (6)
Crosby (17) Jovanovski (9)
Engelland (35) Doan (25)
Letang (+7) Aucoin (+6)
Crosby (4) Six Tied (1)
Cooke (2)
Korpikoski/Ebbett (1)
Johnson (5-1-1) Bryzgalov (4-2-3)
Johnson (1.71) Bryzgalov (2.83)
Johnson (.941) Bryzgalov (.916)

Kris Letang - With each passing game, Kris Letang only continues to improve as he states his claim to being considered one of the preeminent two-way defenders in the game. Letang had two helpers on Friday night against Dallas, giving him points in six of nine games and moving him to the top of the defensive scoring lead with 13 points (3G-10A).
Keith Yandle - Last season’s breakout star defensively with 12 goals and 41 points, Yandle has continued his emergence this season. The 24-year-old blueliner ranks third on the team with six points (2G-4A). He is currently enjoying a stretch which has seen him post points in four of his past five games (2G-2A).

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Author: Jason Seidling

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