NY Islanders (36-40-6) at Phoenix (38-39-5) 10:00 pm EDT
GLENDALE, Arizona (Ticker) - For a team that has not won a
playoff series since 1993, the New York Islanders had a summer
worthy of a soap opera.
Ted Nolan returns to the NHL after nearly a decade to coach the
Islanders on Thursday when they visit Wayne Gretzky's Phoenix
Coyotes in the season opener for both teams.
After failing to make the playoffs last season, the Islanders
hired Nolan, a former Jack Adams Award winner with the Buffalo
Sabres, whose last campaign in the league was 1996-1997 before
leaving following a contract dispute.
Former New York Rangers general manager Neil Smith, who guided
that squad to the 1994 Stanley Cup title, replaced Mike Milbury
as general manager but lasted just 40 days in the job before he
was replaced by retiring backup goaltender Garth Snow.
One of the most surprising moves of the summer was the signing
of netminder Rick DiPietro, the top pick in the 2000 draft, to a
15-year, $67 million contract after winning 30 games last year.
Scoring goals was a chore last season for the Islanders, who
tied Boston the fewest in the Eastern Conference (230).
Miroslav Satan led the squad with 35.
In his first season behind the bench, Gretzky may have learned
coaching was not as easy as playing the game. The league's
all-time leader in goals, assists and points failed to lead the
Coyotes to the postseason.
"The Great One" had to cope with the death of his mother and
allegations his wife, Janet, may have been involved in a
gambling ring with assistant Rick Tocchet.
Phoenix is expected to have a more physical presence with the
additions of defensemen Ed Jovanovski from Vancouver and Nick
Boynton from Boston, along with right wing Georges Laraque, who
helped Edmonton win the Western Conference title.
Also returning is Jeremy Roenick, who spent five seasons with
the Coyotes from 1996-2001. He struggled through injuries with
Los Angeles last season, scoring just nine goals to end up 16
shy of 500.