By Dave Vest
PITTSBURGH – The Coyotes will attempt to stay undefeated on Wednesday night when they take on another unbeaten team – the Pittsburgh Penguins – at Mellon Arena. The puck drops at 4:30 p.m. (Arizona time).
Led by All-Stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh, of course, is the defending Stanley Cup champions. Eighteen players from last year’s team are back in the mix for Pittsburgh, which has started the season with one-goal victories over both New York teams.
“It’s definitely a tough test for us,” Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski said. “They are a team that’s got a lot of skill and a lot of speed. They are the defending Cup champs and they are that for a reason. They are a well-coached team and possess a lot of threats from all of their lines. So, it’s going to be a good test for our team early and we’re looking forward to it.”
Crosby (two goals, one assist) and Malkin (one goal, one assist) are leading the way offensively for Pittsburgh, per usual. Malkin has played in 244 consecutive games.
“When you have players like that it’s got to be strong team defense,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said when asked how you defend the talented duo. “You can’t rely on one or two players to say ‘hey, these guys are going to shut these guys down.’ That’s just not reality. You have to have a real team mind-set, and team concept and plan.”
Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who stopped 30 of 33 shots in the season-opening victory over Los Angeles on Saturday, is expected to start.
Winger Radim Vrbata is ecstatic to be back with the Coyotes and it showed in the season opener in which he scored two goals to lead Phoenix to a 6-3 road win over the Los Angeles Kings. Vrbata set a career-high for goals in a season while playing for the Coyotes in 2007-08.
Sidney Crosby has picked up where he left off last season when he notched 30 goals and 70 assists. The Penguins captain/face of the franchise has scored twice and dished out an assist in Pittsburgh’s first two games. The 22-year-old center has 400 points in 292 games, becoming the sixth fastest to reach that mark in NHL history.
Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett played 74 games for the Penguins in the 1992-93 season. Tippett, a forward, notched six goals and 19 assists. Coyotes Associate Coach Ulf Samuelsson played 277 games for Pittsburgh from 1990-1995. Samuelsson, a defenseman, notched 11 goals and 83 assists for the Penguins. He and the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 1990-91 and 1991-92.
Coyotes captain Shane Doan needs one point to give him 624 for his career, which would move him past Keith Tkachuk and into sole possession of third place on the franchise’s all-time points list.
Coyotes enforcer Paul Bissonnette played 15 games for the Penguins last season, his first in the NHL. Bissonette did not play in the season opener vs. Los Angeles, but is hoping to crack the lineup vs. Pittsburgh, which placed him on waivers last week.
"As a defenseman, I'm going to have my hands full. All of us will."