They had to travel all the way to Prague to do it, as the Bruins will take on Phoenix in a pair of games in the Czech Republic’s crown jewel as part of the NHL’s NHL Premiere event in Europe.
Beyond marking the first game of the season, this one will also feature the regular-season NHL debut of Boston’s prized prospect Tyler Seguin and the Bruins debut of key offseason acquisition Nathan Horton.
Boston Bruins (0-0-0) vs. Phoenix Coyotes (0-0-0)
Oct. 9, 6 p.m. local, 12 p.m. ET (NESN)
O2 Arena, Prague, Czech Republic
This is the first matchup of the year between the Bruins and Coyotes. The Coyotes won the only meeting last year, 4-1 in Phoenix on Oct. 17 as Keith Yandle had a goal and an assist and Shane Doan had three assists. Mark Stuart scored the Bruins’ only goal from Blake Wheeler and David Krejci. The Bruins hold a 37-19-7-1 edge in the all-time series.
Goaltending is usually the key to any matchup, and this one should be no different. The Bruins are expected to give Tuukka Rask the start after he enjoyed a stellar rookie campaign in 2009-10 with a 22-12-5 record and league-leading 1.97 GAA and .931 save percentage. Phoenix will likely counter with Ilya Bryzgalov, who was the runner-up in last year’s Vezina voting after going 42-20-6 with a 2.29 GAA and a .920 save percentage.
Last year’s meeting featured one fight, with Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk taking on Phoenix tough guy Paul Bissonnette. It was Boychuk’s first career fight in the NHL and he finished the year with just two fighting majors, while Bissonnette had 19 of Phoenix’s 30 fighting majors in 2009-10. If he’s in the lineup for this one, he’s more likely to match up against Shawn Thornton, who had 21 of Boston’s 47 fighting majors last year.
Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris began last year in Boston before being traded back to Phoenix at the deadline. Shane Hnidy was also in Phoenix’s camp as a tryout but suffered a shoulder injury in the preseason. Keith Yandle hails from Milton, Mass., while Adrian Aucoin played one season at Boston University. Brian McGrattan played five games for Phoenix in 2008-09. He hasn’t been officially signed by the Bruins, but is expected to finalize a deal on Monday after attending Boston’s camp as a tryout.
The Bruins will be looking to get the season off on the right note, but that won’t be easy against a Phoenix club that was one of the biggest surprises of last season and promises to be a top team again this year. The Coyotes won’t be easy to score against with Bryzgalov between the pipes and Yandle, Morris and Ed Jovanovski on defense. At the other end of the ice, the Bruins will have their hands full with Doan, Wojtek Wolski and new addition Ray Whitney. It won’t be an easy first test for the Bruins, but it should be an entertaining one for the fans in Prague and the folks watching at home.