NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, October 9th (All times eastern)
Phoenix Coyotes (0-0-0) at Boston Bruins (0-0-0), 12 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Phoenix Coyotes and Boston Bruins will get their seasons started this afternoon in the Czech Republic, as the clubs meet at the O2 Arena in Prague.
The Coyotes and Bruins are playing a pair of games in Prague and will also get together Sunday afternoon to cap the 2010 NHL Premiere series. The league's European showcase also included a pair of games in Helsinki, Finland between Carolina and Minnesota and two contests featuring San Jose and Columbus in Stockholm, Sweden.
Both Phoenix and the Bruins are coming off playoff appearances last spring, and for the Coyotes it marked the franchise's first trip to the postseason since 2002. Phoenix hasn't made the playoffs in consecutive years since 1999 and 2000, when it was at the end of a string of four straight postseason appearances. The Coyotes were bounced out in the first round of last year's Western Conference playoffs, losing in seven games to the Detroit Red Wings.
Boston, meanwhile, will try to erase the memory of last year's playoff collapse as the Bruins became just the third team in NHL history to lose a series after taking a three games to none lead. The B's won the first three games of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Philadelphia, but the Flyers made history by winning four in a row.
The Coyotes' run to the postseason was easily the most surprising story of last year's NHL regular season, but in 2010-11, head coach Dave Tippett and his troops will have to prove that they were no fluke.
Phoenix made a flurry of moves around last season's trade deadline and re- signed a large portion of those late arrivals so the 2010-11 team will look a lot like it did when the Coyotes went down to Detroit in the playoffs.
The Coyotes were 24th in the NHL in goals scored per game last year and it appears they will have to rely heavily on their defense once again if they want to make the postseason for a second straight year. The biggest loss for the Coyotes this offseason was dealt to the club's defense, which watched Zbynek Michalek sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Phoenix retained players like Ed Jovanovski, Keith Yandle, Derek Morris and Adrian Aucoin, giving the club a talented group on the blue line and one whose worth is greater than the sum of its parts.
Ilya Bryzgalov will also try to repeat his 2009-10 performance, a year that saw him rewarded by being chosen as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. The 30- year-old is expected to get the start today for the Coyotes.
The Bruins were the worst offensive team in the NHL last season, posting just 2.39 goals per game, and recent injury news regarding the club's best forward is not helping the situation heading into this year.
Marc Savard, Boston's top centerman, played in just 41 games during the 2009-10 regular season and he is still battling post-concussion syndrome. Savard suffered a concussion when Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke delivered a vicious blow to his head on March 7, and although Savard returned to play in Boston's final seven playoff games he is still experiencing concussion symptoms over six months later and will be sidelined indefinitely.
Another Boston centerman, Marco Sturm, will also miss at least the first month of the season with a right knee injury.
If there is a silver lining to Boston's injury problems it's that Tyler Seguin -- the second overall pick of the last NHL draft -- may be forced to take a bigger role offensively this season. Seguin, who Boston selected with one of the picks they acquired from Toronto in the Phil Kessel trade, can play center or wing, but he will mainly be used down the middle due to Savard and Sturm's injuries.
Seguin, who had 106 points for the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL last year, will make his NHL debut this evening.
Another big part of Boston's offense, center Patrice Bergeron, was signed to a three-year, $15 million extension earlier this week. The deal will keep the 25-year-old with the Bruins through the 2013-14 season.
"Patrice is really one of those guys who takes this game seriously," head coach Claude Julien told Boston's official team site. "No matter what time of year it is, he wants to be at his best."
The Bruins locked up another key piece prior to Saturday's opener, signing defenseman Zdeno Chara to a seven-year contract extension through the 2017-18 campaign. The 33-year-old mammoth blueliner and team captain had 37 assists and 44 points last season, one year removed from capturing the first Norris Trophy of his career.
It's unclear if Julien will start Tim Thomas -- the winner of the 2008-09 Vezina -- or last year's No. 1 goaltender Tuukka Rask in net today.
Phoenix posted a 4-1 home win over Boston in the only meeting between the clubs last year and the Coyotes have taken three of four overall in the series.
10/09 11:26:59 ET