By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will play their first home game of the 2011-12 season today against the Winnipeg Jets at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 4 p.m. (AZ time).
Today’s game is the first of two between these teams this season. It is an intriguing matchup, to say the least.
The Jets, of course, left Winnipeg in 1996 and moved to Phoenix to become the Coyotes. At the end of last season, there was widespread speculation that the Coyotes would move back to Winnipeg and again become the Jets. That never happened, and the Jets were eventually reborn when the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg after 11 years.
"It's a home opener and a unique situation in the fact that it's (against) Winnipeg and our organization's connection," said Coyotes captain Shane Doan
, who was selected seventh overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft by Winnipeg, where he spent one season before the franchise moved to Phoenix. "Winnipeg gave me the opportunity to play in the NHL and I'll always be grateful for that incredible opportunity and to play there. Being from Western Canada, it was so special for me to play there and it's unique to get the chance to play against them."
Doan is one of three players from the 1995-96 Jets who are still in the NHL. Anaheim's Teemu Selanne and Edmonton’s Nikolai Khabibulin are the others.
► Click here
to watch an exclusive interview with Doan.
is expected to start in goal for the Coyotes (1-1-1). Smith has stopped 38 of 39 shots in the last four periods he has played.
The Coyotes last played on Thursday and beat Nashville 5-2. Thirteen players notched at least one point in that game.
"You need to generate some chances, and we did that (on Thursday)," Tippett said. "We recognize who we are and how we have to play and how hard it is to score, and we expect everybody to do their best and get involved."
► Click here
to listen to Tippett answer questions after Friday's practice.
The Coyotes are 10-3-1 in home openers since moving to Phoenix from Winnipeg in 1996 and have outscored opponents 52-18 in those games.
“We’re very excited,” forward Paul Bissonnette
said. “We have a little bitter taste in our mouth after getting knocked out (of the playoffs) in our own building. We just need to play with controlled emotion and play our game. We went into Nashville (on Thursday) and they were all hyped up for their home opener and we saw how that went. I think we should use that as a learning experience and run from there.”
The Jets (0-2-0) enter the game as the only team in the NHL yet to earn a point this season.
"We have a pretty good understanding of them," Tippett said. "I think they'll be a hungry team, with a lot of hype, new season, and they've dropped their first two games. They'll come in here very hungry, so we have to be prepared for that.”
The Jets led Chicago by two goals on Thursday in their last outing, but they couldn’t hold that lead and lost 4-3.
Winnipeg has yet to score a power-play goal and ranks 27th in the NHL in penalty killing at 71.4 percent. In the faceoff circle, the Jets rank 28th at 44.7 percent.
Jets backup goalie Chris Mason may start his first game of the season in place of Ondrej Pavelec, who has played both games so far. Should he play again, Pavelec will enter this game with a 4.58 goals-against average and a .833 save percentage.
Forward Brett MacLean, whom the Jets claimed off waivers from the Coyotes before the season started, has one assist in his first two games with Winnipeg.
to read "The Desert Dog Blog" about things fans need to know regarding today's home opener.