NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, October 11th (All times eastern)
Columbus Blue Jackets (1-0-0) at Phoenix Coyotes (0-0-0), 10 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Coyotes have been left out of the postseason in each of the last five seasons. That is something Wayne Gretzky isn't used to.
Entering his fourth season as head coach of Phoenix, Gretzky will try to guide his club to a home-opening win tonight versus the Columbus Blue Jackets at Jobing.com Arena.
Gretzky has a 107-122-17 mark as head coach of Phoenix, but his club is coming off an 83-point season last year, its best with the "Great One" on the bench. Also, the club seems to have to the tools this year to reach the postseason.
Phoenix made a huge move last year, acquiring netminder Ilya Bryzgalov from Anaheim. All the netminder did was go 26-22-5 in 55 games with Phoenix after getting picked up in late November. He also posted a 2.44 goals against average and a .920 ave percentage, earning a three-year, $12.75 million contract in January.
The Coyotes continued to add pieces in the offseason, getting centerman Olli Jokinen from Florida for a pair of defenseman. Jokinen is coming off sort of a down year, but he still managed 34 goals and 71 points a year ago.
His arrival will offset the departure of Radim Vrbata, who had 27 goals last year but signed with Tampa Bay over the summer.
Shane Doan begins his 13th season with the Phoenix/Winnipeg franchise and had his best statistical season in 2007-08, notching a career-high 78 points (28 goals, 50 assists) while playing in 80 contests.
The Coyotes also feature some young talent in Peter Mueller (22g, 32a) and Kyle Turris, the third overall pick in the 2007 draft. The 19-year-old spent last year with the University of Wisconsin before playing in three games with the Coyotes late last year.
Ed Jovanovski's first year as the main man on the Phoenix defense during the 2006-07 season was less than stellar, leaving many critics to believe that signing Jovo to a five-year, $32.5 million deal was an error in judgment.
However, the five-time All-Star bounced back with a much better effort in 2007-08, as he led all Phoenix defensemen with 51 points (12g, 39a) to make a 22-point improvement in his output from the previous season. Also back on the blueline will be veteran Derek Morris, who played solid defense and notched eight goals and 17 assists last year. Zbynek Michalek, 25, will also return.
Columbus began its season on Friday with a win, as Rick Nash beat Dallas netminder Marty Turco on a wrister with only 21 seconds left in overtime to lift his team to a 5-4 victory.
Several players making their debut with the club factored into the win. Jakub Voracek, a winger taken seventh overall by Columbus in the 2007 draft, notched a goal and an assist in his NHL debut, while first-year Blue Jacket Kristian Huselius scored the first of three third-period goals for the Blue Jackets. R.J. Umberger, also making his first appearance with the club, assisted on Huselius' goal.
Pascal Leclaire stopped 27-of-31 shots to get the win, while Andrew Murray and Derick Brassard also scored.
Columbus plays the second of three straight road games to open the season tonight. The Blue Jackets are in San Jose on Tuesday.
Columbus has won four of five and seven of its last 11 versus the Coyotes. That includes three straight wins in Phoenix.
10/11 10:51:00 ET