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Thursday, October 5th (All times eastern)

New York Islanders (0-0-0) at Phoenix Coyotes (0-0-0), 10 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Wayne Gretzky begins his second season as a National Hockey League head coach tonight when his Phoenix Coyotes welcome the New York Islanders to Glendale Arena in the opener for both clubs.

Gretzky would love to just forget about his first year behind the bench. There was the early-season retirement of Brett Hull, the whole Rick Tocchet fiasco and the deaths of his mother and grandmother. And his team's performance didn't help either.

The Coyotes finished 12th in the Western Conference with 81 points, and were never a factor in the playoff race. The team couldn't score and couldn't stop the opposition, so entering this offseason it was evident that something big had to happen.

Well, it happened early. Defenseman Ed Jovanovski was signed to provide a bona fide anchor presence. The moves continued with Jeremy Roenick, Georges Laraque and Owen Nolan entering the fold, and general manager Michael Barnett traded Paul Mara to Boston for defenseman Nick Boynton.

The team also returns with veteran Curtis Joseph between the pipes, and a few decent offensive weapons in Shane Doan, Ladislav Nagy and Mike Comrie.

The Coyotes will host Anaheim on Saturday.

New York, meanwhile, is coming off a bizarre summer. After bringing in a solid crop of free agents that included Brendan Witt, Mike Sillinger, Tom Poti and Chris Simon, the club's newly polished front office became a laughing stock. Just about a month after he was hired as the general manager, Neil Smith abruptly vacated the position due to philosphical differences with owner Charles Wang.

The comedy continued when backup goaltender Garth Snow retired and took over as the GM.

Good things - the new players brought in and the hiring of Ted Nolan as head coach -- aside, the happenings of this summer on Long Island have made Wang come off as a madman.

And the unconventional antics continued in early September when Wang inked goaltender Rick DiPietro to a 15-year contract that will pay him $4.5 million per season. The contract, while it could bring rewards if DiPietro continues his development and becomes a top-five goaltender, leaves little room for flexibility in the crease and essentially makes DiPietro an untradable commodity.

DiPietro's new deal is the longest in NHL history, as it surpassed the 10-year pact inked by Islanders center Alexei Yashin in 2001. Yashin, while his numbers have been solid, has been criticized for his lack of showing up in key situations, namely the playoffs. Last season he tied for the club lead with 66 points (28g, 38a).

Sniper Miroslav Satan came over from Buffalo last offseason and tied with Yashin for the club's scoring lead. He topped the club with 35 goals, but that total could have been so much higher had he been a little more consistent than he was. His highest goal total in a month was eight, and that was back in October.

Overall, the Islanders hope to improve an offensive attack that was among the NHL's worst a season ago. They tallied only 230 goals in 05-06, which tied Boston for the fewest amount in the Eastern Conference

The Islanders begin the season with a four-game Western road trip, and will visit San Jose on Saturday.

New York and Phoenix haven't met since February 13, 2004, and the Coyotes are 6-1-3 in the last 10 meetings.

10/05 10:32:07 ET


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