By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will drop the puck on their 2010-11 season nearly 6,000 miles from their home rink on Saturday when they play the Boston Bruins at O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic. The game, and another vs. Boston on Sunday, are part of the NHL’s 2010 Compuware Premiere series that brings league teams to Europe for a short time each October. Saturday’s game will begin at 9 a.m. (Arizona time).
|Members of the Coyotes and Bruins pose for a photo in Prague. Photo by Rich Nairn.
Pheonix enters the game and the season hoping to surpass the franchise-record 50 wins and franchise-record 107 points it produced last season.
Head Coach Dave Tippett, who won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach in 2009-10, has clearly defined the goal for the season with a catchphrase: “Up the Ante.”
To do that, the Coyotes know they must play well in October.
“We have to have a good start,” captain Shane Doan
said. “We realize that. We had to have a good start last year and we have to do that again this year. You can’t fall behind in the standings early because if you do you’re always chasing it… (Tippett) has to have us mentally ready for theses games and he will because he’s really good at doing that.”
The game will be especially meaningful for the three Coyotes players - Martin Hanzal
, Petr Prucha
and Radim Vrbata
- who are natives of the Czech Republic.
"It's going to be really exciting," Prucha said. "I can't wait to be part of it."
► EDITOR'S NOTE:
to watch an interview with Prucha after Saturday's morning skate.
, who finished second in the Vezina Trophy voting after posting a career-high 42 victories in 2009-10, will start in goal for the Coyotes in the opener. The Bruins are expected to start Tuukka Rask in goal.
A few players – some young, others not-so-young – are expected to make their debuts for the Coyotes in this game.
• Winger Ray Whitney
, 38, should see lots of ice time, especially on power plays.
• Center Eric Belanger
, 32, who joined the team just before training camp started, will center one of the top two lines.
• Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson
, 19, is expected to not only make his Coyotes debut but also his NHL debut. Ekman-Larsson was the sixth overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and he proved he is ready to play in the league with a solid training camp. Click here
to read more about the young Swede.
• And center Kyle Turris
, the third overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, returns to the Coyotes after a year in the AHL.
|The Coyotes stretch before Friday's practice in Prague. Photo by Rich Nairn.
The Coyotes have been in Prague since Monday, minus about 12 hours spent traveling to and from Riga, Latvia for an exhibition game, which they won 3-1 in their final tune-up before the season starts. Taylor Pyatt
, Petr Prucha
and Lee Stempniak
scored goals in the victory.
The players are eager to reach to main reason for this lengthy journey – the two games vs. Boston.
“The toughest thing I think is getting used to the time change and getting used to the time zones and the sleeping patterns,” said defenseman Derek Morris
, who played 58 games for the Bruins last season. “But we’ve adjusted. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be exciting.”
Morris is nursing a lower body injury and will not play in Saturday's game. He is listed as day-to-day.
Like the Coyotes, the Bruins are eager to build on a season they feel ended too quickly with a loss to Philadelphia in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“For us, it’s about stepping up all together as a team and making sure we play together and we find a way," Bruins forwrad Patrice Bergeron told the team’s Website. "We have no choice. That’s the adversity we face… We have a lot of depth this year and great players."
Forward Tyler Seguin, the No. 2 overall pick in this year's NHL Entry Draft, is expected to make his NHL debut for Boston.