Game Day: Phoenix Coyotes @ San Jose Sharks
The fifteenth season of the Phoenix Coyotes is finally set to kick off tonight as they host the San Jose Sharks at 7:30 p.m. PST. As per the usual recipe, many questions surrounding the franchise continue to bubble up to the surface, the most prevalent of which was the focus of the Coyotes’ new ad campaign launched this week. On a team scale, league-wide “experts” continue to place them near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, or more specifically, the “not quite as bad as those Oilers but close enough” position of 14th. Bear in mind that they also did this last year (actual position: 6th) and the year before (4th). And this isn’t the East, people.
But how will this team really fare? Have they found a solid goaltender acquisition in Mike Smith? How will Daymond Langkow, who suffered a near-career ending neck injury over a year ago, find his new role as a first-line center? Will Don Maloney lend Kyle Turris a VHS collection of Oprah to watch (and his VHS player)? Will BizNasty make it to double-digit figures in ice-time, since we know he might not be able to tweet as much as he used to?
Wait, some of you might not have been caught up yet. My bad.
Summer Cheat Sheet
New Old Faces
News & Notes: In addition to locking down BizNasty for two more years, Phoenix signed Martin Hanzal to a five-year extension on Thursday, a deal that will award him up to a reported $ 15.5 M. The 6’6”, 236 pound Hanzal set new career highs for himself last season in posting 16 goals, 5 game-winners, 7 power play goals and 147 hits in 61 regular season games. With the new deal, Hanzal hopes to prove that there is a future in the desert, and maybe, just maybe, he’s bought himself enough time to get opposing broadcasters the incentive to finally be able to get his name right.
Hanzal is also rumoured to be getting the other “A” on his jersey before the team’s debut. Phoenix’s other assistant captain Is All-Star defenseman Keith Yandle.
Phoenix is also looking to lock down their captain Shane Doan, who is slated to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2011-12 season. Meanwhile, yes, the Kyle Turris wait continues.
A note of congratulations is in order for Coyotes’ defenseman Rostislav Klesla, who missed Thursday’s practice (with good reason) as he welcomed a son, Rostislav Jr., into the world.
Finally, Adrian Aucoin offers his take on tonight’s game in his blog. Yes, Adrian, we ARE ready to drop the puck.
Game On!: The San Jose Sharks were the Coyotes’ last opponent in pre-season action, where Phoenix posted a 3-4 record but were the winners of this head-to-head with their division rivals by a score of 3-1. For their part, San Jose had won all of their pre-season games until that one, with half their games separating them from their opponents by at least three goals. Once again this year, the knock on Phoenix will be their offensive production, as they did manage to outscore their opponents in pre-season, but only by an 18-17 margin.
Thomas Greiss will be in goal for the Sharks, whereas Mike Smith will make his official debut for the Coyotes. San Jose’s new faces include Brent Burns, Michal Handzus, former Coyotes’ blueliner Jim Vandermeer as well as Martin Havlat but the latter is not expected to play for San Jose in the opener, as he is still in recovery from offseason shoulder surgery.
Sharks’ captain Joe Thornton, five games away from his 1000th, reached the 1000-point mark against the Coyotes and has 11 points in the last 8 games against them. Phoenix, despite not having won at the HP Pavilion since October 12th 2009, has the longest active opening game win-streak in the league (5 in a row before today). After this game, Phoenix will next play in Dallas on Monday, October 10th and visit Nashville on Thursday, October 13th, before opening their doors to their fans at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale on Saturday, October 15th to host (naturally) the Winnipeg Jets.