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Pittsburgh vs. Phoenix Preview

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (2-0-0-4) vs. Phoenix Coyotes (1-0-0-2)

Where: Mellon Arena
When:
Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m.
Radio:
WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
TV:
FSN Pittsburgh, the game will be broadcast in HD, available on Armstrong 179, Atlantic Broadband 782, Citizen 737, Comcast 226/774, DISH 428, DirecTV 659 and Verizon Fios 576.
*View FSN's Broadcast Schedule here()

Season Series:
This is the only meeting between the Penguins and the Phoenix Coyotes during the 2009-10 season. Phoenix won the only meeting between the two teams a season ago, 4-1, on Oct. 30, 2008 at Jobing.com Arena.
Special Note: The Pittsburgh Penguins and American Eagle Outfitters will hold the first of five special American Eagle Student Rush Nights.
 
American Eagle Student Rush tickets go on sale one hour before game time at the Mellon Arena Gate Eight (8) Box Office. You must have a valid college or high school Student ID and $20 cash to participate. Limit one (1) ticket per Student ID. For more information on the American Eagle Student Rush program, click here.

 
PENGUINS PROJECTED LINES RELATED CONTENT
Forwards
Kunitz-Crosby-Guerin
Dupuis-Malkin-Fedotenko
Cooke-Staal-Kennedy
Rupp-Adams-Godard

Defense
Gonchar-Orpik
Eaton-Letang
Goligoski-McKee

Netminder
Johnson


Game Highlights
AP Recap  
 
KEY TO VICTORY
Continue to Attack the Net: Pittsburgh has scored six goals in regulation through two games because they have constantly crashed the slot area in front of the opposition’s net. Evgeni Malkin and Tyler Kennedy each deflected in shots from defensemen while Ruslan Fedotenko’s game-tying goal against the Islanders Saturday came from New York not being able to control the rebound of a Sergei Gonchar shot due to Kennedy’s presence right on goaltender Dwayne Roloson’s doorstep.

Success on the Draws:
The Penguins saw on Saturday against the Islanders what winning faceoffs can do for a team. Sidney Crosby’s clean third-period win led directly to a Mark Eaton goal. Phoenix comes into the game ranked second in the league with a 58.7 percent success rate on draws. Free agent signee Vernon Fiddler was 12-3 against the Los Angeles Kings while Matthew Lombardi was 8-5. For the Penguins, Crosby is 30-16 (65.2%) on the season and Craig Adams is 12-6 (66.7%).

 
LOWDOWN ON THE COYOTES
The Phoenix Coyotes have faced a tumultuous 12 months due to the ongoing sale of the franchise and the training camp departure of head coach Wayne Gretzky. Phoenix, which hasn’t qualified for the playoffs the past six seasons, finished last season in fourth place in the Pacific Division with a record of 36-39-7. Captain Shane Doan, with 73 points (31G-42A), was the only Coyote to register more than 50 points in 2008-09.

Former Penguin Dave Tippett replaces Wayne Gretzky behind the bench for Phoenix. He spent the previous six seasons as the head coach of the Dallas Stars before being replaced at the conclusion of last season. Tippett led Dallas as far as the Western Conference Finals just two seasons ago before injuries sabotaged the Stars last year. He won two Pacific Division titles during his Stars’ tenure.
 
NEW FACES
Radim Vrbata returns to both the Coyotes and the National Hockey League after a failed stint with the Tampa Bay Lightning a season ago. Vrbata lasted only 18 games with the Lightning, scoring only three goals, before heading back to his native Czech Republic due to family concerns. He established career highs with 27 goals and 56 points two seasons ago in his only year in the desert. Phoenix has also added a couple former Penguins to their lineup over the past couple weeks in center Robert Lang and winger Paul Bissonette.

Lang signed with the Coyotes on Sept. 29 after spending 2008-09 with the Montreal Canadiens. Lang was leading Montreal in goal scoring before suffering a season-ending Achilles’ tendon injury after 50 games. Bissonette was claimed off waivers from the Penguins last week.

Defensively, the Coyotes added a couple of minor additions in Sami Lepisto from the Washington Capitals for a 2010 draft pick and Jim Vandermeer from Calgary for Brandon Pust.

 
FORWARDS
The Coyotes didn’t get much offense out of anyone not named Shane Doan in 2008-09. Olli Jokinen was acquired from Florida to be a No. 1 center, but he was sent packing to the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline. Doan has been one of the top power forwards over the past decade for the Coyotes despite the lack of a true running mate. Robert Lang’s signing and the re-acquisition of Radim Vrbata should give Doan quality linemates whose playmaking skills can take advantage of Doan’s superb hands around the net.

Phoenix scored six goals in their season opener, and the success of their newfound offensive depth had much to do with that. While Vrbata scored twice and Lang once, youngsters Scottie Upshall and Daniel Winnik also added goals, along with veteran second-line center Matthew Lombardi. Lombardi averaged nearly a point-per-game last season for Phoenix after arriving in the Jokinen trade. 21-year-old winger Peter Mueller will be expected to build upon the 13 goals and 36 points he recorded last season, which was fourth most for the Coyotes.  

 
DEFENSEMEN
Veteran Ed Jovanovski gets a lot of the attention on the Coyotes’ back end, and most of that is justified, but a couple of youngsters are emerging as quality rearguards in their own right. Czech native Zbynek Michalek was recently named an alternate captain by Tippett. The 26-year-old plays a solid two-way game and offers dependability for a young club, playing all 82 regular-season games three of the past four seasons.

Only 23, American-born Keith Yandle had been knocking on the door of cracking the Coyotes roster full-time before playing in 69 games last season. Yandle finished second among Coyotes’ defensemen in scoring behind Jovanovski with 30 points (4G-26A). Although his numbers aren’t what they once were, Jovanovski was able to contribute 36 points (9G-27A) in 2008-09 while appearing in all 82 contests. The alternate captain teams with another veteran, former Calgary Flame Adrian Aucoin, to provide veterans capable of playing against opponents’ top lines. 

 
GOALTENDING
One area where Phoenix has been solid the past couple years is between the pipes with Ilya Bryzgalov. The Russian backstop was claimed off waivers from the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 17, 2007 and has served as the clear-cut No. 1 since. Bryzgalov established career highs last season with 65 games played and six shutouts.

Bryzgalov has significant Stanley Cup experience under his belt, having teamed with J-S Giguere in Anaheim to win the 2007 Stanley Cup, winning three playoff games and posting a .922 save percentage while Giguere was out. Backup Jason LaBarbera arrived as a free agent in the offseason after splitting last season with the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks. He won 17 games two seasons ago as the Kings No. 1 netminder.

 
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: ROBERT LANG
Robert Lang broke onto the scene at the NHL level with the Penguins in the late 1990s. Teaming mostly with Alexei Kovalev and Martin Straka, Lang rang up 103 goals and 158 assists for 261 points in 345 games for Pittsburgh between 1997-2002. Lang has racked up 50 or more points eight times.

Lang helped carry the Canadiens offense prior to his injury a season ago, recording 39 points (18G-21A) in 50 games. He notched his second career hat trick and was leading Montreal in power-play points before he left the lineup. Lang’s best season occurred in 2003-04 when he was leading the NHL in scoring with 79 points (30G-49A) combined with the Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings before a broken rib sidelined him for the remainder of that season.

 
"THEY SAID IT"
"You find goals. We were fortunate on some chances, but we competed hard, we generated some good chances, and we capitalized on them. That was a solid team effort."

- Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett speaking to the Arizona Republic after the team’s 6-3 season-opening victory over the Los Angeles Kings.

 
POINT OF INTEREST
11: The number of players to record at least one point in the Coyotes 6-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Radim Vrbata was the only Coyote to register more than one point. 
 

Author: Jason Seidling

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