NHL Preview from The Sports Network |
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
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
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
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