Bruins vs. Coyotes
The Czech native was the offensive star of the Coyotes' fifth consecutive season-opening victory, and he'll look to help his team pick up two more points Sunday as Phoenix wraps its overseas series with Boston.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Bruins –114 money line favorites for Sunday's game against the Bruins +105. Current MLB Public Betting Information shows that 57% of more than 769 bets for this game have been placed on the Bruins -114.
Vrbata had played two NHL games in his home country prior to Saturday, skating nearly 30 minutes without registering a point in two losses to the New York Rangers while playing for Tampa Bay in Prague two years ago.
He lasted only one disappointing season with the Lightning, who shipped him back to Phoenix (1-0-0) before the start of last season. Returning to the team with which he had a career-high 56 points in 2007-08, Vrbata scored a team-best 24 goals in leading the Coyotes to their first playoff berth in seven years last spring.
Back in Prague on Saturday, Vrbata seemed to pick up where he left off last season. The right wing scored the game's opening goal, added an assist and later chipped in an empty-netter as Phoenix won 5-2.
"It was special, especially for us Czech guys," Vrbata told the league's official website, referring to native teammates Martin Hanzal and Petr Prucha.
"It was much better than last time (I played here). ... I'm glad we won in the first game and hopefully will continue tomorrow."
Boston (0-1-0) also picked up where it left off. The Bruins fell behind 4-0, hardly the start they were seeking in their first game since blowing a three-goal lead in their Game 7 loss to Philadelphia to cap a playoff series they led 3-0.
"I thought we were flat in the beginning and couldn't get anything going," said captain Zdeno Chara, who signed a seven-year contract extension just before the opener.
None of Boston's 26 shots in the first 40 minutes got past Ilya Bryzgalov, but Nathan Horton beat the Russian goaltender twice in the third in his Bruins debut. Boston is counting on Horton, a 20-goal scorer in each of his last five seasons with Florida, to give life to an offense that scored the NHL's fewest goals in 2009-10 and is without Marc Savard (concussion).
Rookie Tyler Seguin, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft, is the Bruins' other big offensive addition. Seguin had four shots in his NHL debut but was a minus-2.
He couldn't beat Bryzgalov, who stopped 40 shots and looked just as impressive as he did last season while winning 42 games - third-best in the league.
Phoenix, however, doesn't want to have to continually look to its star netminder to save it.
"We can't rely on Bryz that much," captain Shane Doan said. "They had 42 shots or something like that. We can't do that. Bryz was really good in the beginning or we would have been in trouble."
Boston's Tuukka Rask, the NHL's goals-against leader (1.97 per game) last season, wasn't nearly as impressive. Rask allowed four goals only five times in 39 regular-season starts in 2009-10.
The Bruins could turn to 2009 Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas on Sunday. Rask started games on back-to-back days just once in 16 opportunities last season.Boston was 9-5-2 on the second day of back-to-backs last season, while Phoenix was 7-4-1.