The Phoenix Coyotes are in town. Rested, filled with chicken wings from Frank and Theresa’s Original Anchor Bar on Main Street. They will have their pregame beef on ‘weck. Yesterday, Matthew Barnaby dropped by the Marine Midland Arena, sorry, make that HSBC, wait, what? It is First Niagara Center. Does Rick Jeannerret still do play-by-play? He does, thank God that is still the same. Barnaby watched the Coyotes practice and talked about it on SiriusXM Home Ice. He was disappointed with the lack of response after Miller was run by Lukic. He thought that the five guys on the ice should have went after Lukic immediately. It was like no one was upset their star goalie was knocked out of the game. He recalled a gave vs. the Canucks, when current Coyote goalie coach Sean Burke was in net for Vancouver. Ted Nolan was the coach of the Sabres, and in net was all world Dominik Hasek.
Vancouver started the game by running Hasek. Their game plan was to get in Hasek’s head that anytime he got outside the paint, he was going to feel it. After getting run, what did Ted Nolan do? He put Rob Ray, Matthew Barnaby, and Brad May on the ice. They hammered Vancoucer goalie Sean Burke all game. The Sabres sent a message, you touch our goalie, your’s will be hurt. Your bring a knife, we bring a gun. Message was sent and not another team ran Hasek that year.
The Sabres come off a tough road win against Carolina in which JASON POMINVILLE scored the only goal on a powerplay. Pominville holds dual citizenship, so he can play for either USA or Canada in international tournaments. The “C” was put on his sweater this year and he has responded accordingly. The right winger comes in with 8 goals and 23 points. His line is the most dangerous of the Sabres as he is paired with Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek. The 2nd round pick of 2001 has developed into a fan favorite, team leader, and a top point producer. Think of him as a mini Shane Doan. Jesus lite.
That is not the only links between these two franchises. The Sabres were owned by the league after team owner John Rigas and his sons were indicted and convicted of bank, wire, and securties fraud and are currently in jail though they are appealing the conviction. Both teams have fought off Jim Balsillie, who wanted to buy the Coyotes and move them to Hamilton, Ontario. This would have impacted the Buffalo Sabres attendance as they get a large amount of fans from the Hamilton and surrounding areas. I mean, who wants to drive to Toronto to see the Leafs disappoint? John Muckler, long time director of hockey operation, coach, and then GM for the Sabres who was named GM of the year by Sporting News in 1997. John was a senior advisor to the Coyotes starting in September 2008 until that fateful day in the summer of 2009, when the front office and management was blown up thanks to former owner Jerry Moyes putting the team in bankruptcy in an attempt to sell to Jim Balsillie.
The Sabres have long time equipment manager Robert “Rip” Simonick. The Coyotes have Stan Wilson, who along with Shane Doan, are the only two remaining connections Winnipeg Jets still active. Add in Tony Silva, and you have three of the most tenured equipment managers in the NHL with their original teams.
Buffalo recently restored their AHL relationship with the Rochester Americans, allowing Portland Pirates to become the AHL property of the Coyotes after several seasons of service to the Sabres.
The Jack Adams trophy for top coach has been won twice by the Sabres; Ted Nolan: 1996–97 and Lindy Ruff: 2005–06 , and once by Phoenix Dave Tippett 2009-2010. Rob Ray: 1998–99 and Shane Doan (C) have won the King Clancy Memorial trophy.
Players who have played on both teams, and this is not inclusive: Grant Fuhr (as a Coyote goalie coach, Sabres goalie), Danny Briere, Brad May, Mikael Tellqvist, Teppo Numminen, (number retired by Phoenix on January 30, 2010), Dmitri Kalinin, and Chris Gratton.
The Sabres had the French Connection of Gilbert Perrault, Rene Robert, and Richard Martin. The Coyotes had the Czeck line of Martin Hanzal, Petr Prucha, and Radim Vrbata.
What does this mean on the ice? The teams are similar in that both depend on their goalies to win games. With Ryan Miller out, Jhonas Enroth is getting the starts until Miller recovers from his concussion. Both teams have defensemen that are puck movers former Kamloop Robyn Regehr and Keith Yandle, who was coached by Ted Nolan in Moncton. There are young standout d-men in Tyler Myers and Oliver Ekman-Larson. And, what we can expect to see tonight; Buffalo, NY native Patrick Kaleta vs The Pride of Welland, Ontario, the “Professor ” Paul Bissonnette.
Prediction: First period tilt by Kaleta and BizNasty. Defensive minded game with special teams deciding the outcome, 3-2 Coyotes. Mike Smith is coming off a tough loss to the Flyers but has the best goals against average of all goalies in penalty kill situations. The last two times these teams have met, it was in Glendale. And the Sabres shelled the Coyotes. It will be different tonight. Stay tuned. The game is not shown locally, so get Center Ice or go to a viewing party at 18 degrees at the Ice Den in Scottsdale and win prizes just by watching the game.