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Penguins vs. Coyotes Game Preview

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins

Home: 10-6-1-21
Road: 11-4-1-23

WHEN: Dec. 20, 2010 - 7:00 pm   |   WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center
FSN  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
Phoenix Coyotes
Home: 6-4-4-16

  Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Phoenix Coyotes 
Ray Whitney
LW  -  #13
  4 Goals
  17 Assists
  21 Points
• The 38-year-old forward signed a two-year contract with Phoenix on July 1 after spending the past five seasons with Carolina.

• After helping the Hurricanes win their first Stanley Cup in his first year with the team in 2006, he proceeded to put up the best numbers of his career the following season, tallying 83 points (32G-51A).

• The veteran forward has done well against Pittsburgh over the course of his career, notching 47 points (14G-33A) in 42 games played against the Penguins.
Shane Doan
RW  -  #19
  4 Goals
  11 Assists
  15 Points
• Is the last remaning Coyote to have played for the Winnipeg Jets, with the Canadian franchise relocating to Phoenix following his rookie season for the 1996-97 campaign.

• The 6-foot-2, 225-pound forward is known for his aggressive style of play, leading the team in hits in three of the past five seasons (and ranking in the top-four in the other two campaigns).

• The Phoenix captain had one of his best seasons in 2008-09, where he was voted into his second NHL All-Star game and posted a career-high 31 goals.
Ed Jovanovski
D  -  #55
  4 goals
  7 assists
  11 points
• Led Coyotes defensemen in scoring in each of his first three seasons with the team after signing a five-year contract on July 1, 2006.

• The two-way blueliner’s top offensive numbers came in 2007-08, when he posted 51 points (12G-39A), good for first among Phoenix defensmen and 10th among NHL defensemen.

• Entered the league at 19 years old in 1995 after being drafted in the 1st round (1st overall) in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, helping the Panthers to their first-ever Stanley Cup Finals appearance in his rookie season.
This is the fourth game of a six-game road tilt for the Phoenix Coyotes, with their three previous contests coming against Atlantic Division teams. The Coyotes head to CONSOL Energy Center on Monday fresh off a 4-3 shootout win over the New York Islanders on Dec. 18, after dropping their previous two games against the New York Rangers and New Jersey.

Phoenix was one of the league’s Cinderella stories last season, but has gotten off to a slow start this year, with their 15-9-7 record ranking ninth in the Western Conference. Their problems stem from a lack of offensive production, but the struggling Coyotes forwards have begun stepping out of their recent funks.

After head coach Dave Tippett made him a healthy scratch against the Rangers, Wojtek Wolski notched his first goal in seven games versus the Islanders, while Radim Vrbata scored for the first time in 12 games that same night. Martin Hanzal has already tallied nine goals, two from his career-high of 11 that took him 82 games to reach last season.

Another bright spot for the Coyotes is that veteran leaders Shane Doan and Ed Jovanovski will be in the lineup versus the Penguins this time around, as the two players missed the game on Nov. 6.

Doan, who suffered a lower-body injury on Nov. 5, didn’t rejoin the Coyotes lineup until Nov. 21. The Coyotes captain has been putting up solid numbers ever since. Doan, Phoenix’s leading scorer last season, scored 12 of his 15 points in the 12 games since his return after notching just one goal in his first nine games. Jovanovski has been the anchor of the Phoenix blueline along with Keith Yandle, with the two ranking in the top-two in team defense scoring the past two seasons.

The Coyotes will be without Ilya Bryzgalov between the pipes, losing last season’s Vezina Trophy (best goaltender) finalist to an upper-body injury that has him listed as day-to-day.

However, backup netminder Jason LaBarbera has stepped up admirably in his stead and will get his third-consecutive start on Monday against the Penguins. LaBarbera, who has seen action in 131 NHL games since entering the league in 2000, made 41 stops in the shootout win over the Islanders and made 33 saves in the 4-3 shootout loss to the Rangers.
  • When Pittsburgh topped Phoenix, 4-3 in a shootout on Nov. 6, rookie center Mark Letestu scored the game-deciding goal with a quick wrist shot in his first NHL shootout. It was the only goal scored in the shootout, as Penguins netminder Brent Johnson stymied all three shots fired by Radim Vrbata, Wojtek Wolski and Lauri Korpikoski.
  • While the Penguins are one of six Eastern Conference teams to have a winning record against Western Conference teams, the Coyotes have been struggling against teams from the East. Pittsburgh owns a 5-2-1 record against Western Conference opponents so far this season, while Phoenix holds a 2-4-5 record against Eastern Conference opponents. Before topping the Islanders on Saturday, their last win against a team from the East came over Boston on Oct. 10 in Prague.
  • The Penguins have won four-consecutive games against Western Conference opponents, starting with their Nov. 6 tilt against the Coyotes. Pittsburgh went on to top Vancouver 3-1 on Nov. 17, Calgary 4-1 on Nov. 27, and Columbus 7-2 on Dec. 4.
  • Sidney Crosby extended his point streak to a career-high 20 games with his assist on Evgeni Malkin’s goal in a 4-1 loss to the Rangers on Wednesday. His streak is the second-longest scoring stretch since the lockout after Dany Heatley’s 22-game streak from Oct. 5 to Nov. 29, 2005. Crosby has recorded 39 points (20G-19A) over the stretch. Only two other players in the NHL (Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, both of Tampa Bay) have recorded more points over their entire seasons than Crosby has in his streak.
  • Four Penguins have spent time with Phoenix in their careers, most notably defenseman Zbynek Michalek. Michalek played 393 games over five seasons with Phoenix and served as an alternate captain for the Coyotes before signing with Pittsburgh on July 1. Forward Mike Comrie posted 60 points (30G-30A) with Phoenix in 2005-06, while forward Mike Rupp and goaltender Brent Johnson each spent brief stints with the Coyotes.


Power Play: The Coyotes committed nine penalties on Saturday against against the Islanders. This bodes well for the Penguins with the return of Evgeni Malkin, who scored two goals with the man-advantage in his return to the lineup against Philadelphia on Dec. 15. Malkin has been dynamite when quarterbacking the Penguins’ power play with Crosby, who’s tied for second in the league with eight power-play goals. The Penguins captain likes to feed Malkin passes that allow him to unleash his patented one-timer past stunned goalies.

Keep Battling: In the Coyotes’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Rangers, Phoenix scored two goals in the first six minutes before allowing New York to rally for the eventual win. The Penguins found themselves in a similar situation at Arena on Nov. 6, when Phoenix tallied two goals in the first seven minutes of the game before Pittsburgh stormed back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to win the resulting shootout. The Coyotes seem to have a penchant for surrendering early leads and that tendency may pay off a second time for Pittsburgh.

C Jordan Staal, broken right hand (up to 2 weeks)
F Mike Comrie, lower-body (10)
F Chris Kunitz, undisclosed (2)
G Ilya Bryzgalov, upper-body (day-to-day)
Crosby (26) Hanzal (9)
Crosby (28) Whitney (17)
Crosby (54) Whitney/Yandle (21)
Engelland (69) Yandle (34)
Letang (+17) Aucoin (+9)
Crosby (8) Hanzal (4)
Cooke (2)
Korpikoski (2)
Fleury (14-7-1) Bryzgalov (12-6-6)
Johnson (2.18) Bryzgalov (2.56)
Johnson (.923) Bryzgalov (.921)

Evgeni Malkin - After missing four-consecutive games due to injury, the Penguins forward has scored three goals in his first two games back. He notched two power-play goals in his return to the lineup against the Flyers on Dec. 15, firing a season-high eight shots on net. Malkin then proceeded to score the following night against the New York Rangers to give him 11 goals on the season. He ranks third on the team in scoring with 25 points, quietly recording 16 points (8G-8A) over his past 15 games.
Keith Yandle - Although his career-high four-game point streak was snapped against the Devils on Dec. 15, the dynamic defenseman has seven assists in his past eight games and is tied for the team lead in scoring with 21 points (5G-16A). The 24-year-old alternate captain is extremely versatile, ranking at or near the top in several categories across the board. He holds no qualms about firing the puck on net as he ranks second on the team with 80 shots, and excels on the power play, tallying 12 of his points with the man-advantage. The blueliner leads the Coyotes in minutes-played, averaging 24:14 of ice time each game.

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Author: Michelle Crechiolo

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