Bruins Look to Open Season on Strong Note, Face Off Against Phoenix in Prague

Bruins Look to Open Season on Strong Note, Face Off Against Phoenix in Prague The long wait is finally over. For the first time since last spring’s devastating playoff loss to Philadelphia, the Bruins will take the ice again in a game that actually counts in the standings.

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.

WHEN AND WHERE

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

HEAD TO HEAD

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.

KEY MATCHUP

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.

STAT SHEET

Phoenix

  • Phoenix’s 107 points and 50 wins last year were the most in franchise history, including the 17 years it spent in Winnipeg as well as its 13 seasons in Phoenix.
  •  Last year was Phoenix’s first playoff appearance since 2002, but the Coyotes have still not won a playoff series since leaving Winnipeg.
  • Phoenix captain Shane Doan has spent his entire 14-year career with the Phoenix organization, and is the last active Coyote to have played in Winnipeg, as his rookie season was the Jets’ final year in 1995-96.

Bruins

  • No. 2 overall pick Tyler Seguin was the Bruins’ highest pick since Boston selected Joe Thornton with the first pick in 1997 and the first Bruin to make the opening night roster in his draft year since Phil Kessel in 2006. Seguin was taken with the first of three draft picks Boston acquired in a trade with Toronto for Kessel.
  • The Bruins had the goalie with the best goals-against average and save percentage in the last two years, but it was done by two different netminders. Tim Thomas posted a 2.10 GAA and .933 save percentage in 2008-09, while Rask took top honors last year with his 1.97 GAA and .931 save percentage.
  • This game will feature a matchup of the last two Jack Adams Award winners as Phoenix’s Dave Tippett was named the NHL’s top coach last season, following 2008-09 winner Claude Julien.

FIGHT CARD

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. 
 

INFIRMARY REPORT

Bruins

  •  Marc Savard (post-concussion syndrome) is out indefinitely.
  • Marco Sturm (knee surgery) is expected to be out until at least November.
  • Trent Whitfield (ruptures Achilles) could miss the entire year.

Coyotes

  • Scottie Upshall (knee) is expected to play.
  • Shane Doan (shoulder) is expected to play.
  • Kurt Sauer (head, neck) remains out indefinitely after being injured in last year’s regular-season opener.

FAMILAR FACES

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.

OUTLOOK

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.

 

Yardbarker

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 194,587 other followers