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Season series: The Phoenix Coyotes and San Jose Sharks met five times last season with the Sharks owning a 3-2 edge. The teams are holdovers in the reconfigured Pacific Division.
Big story: It's a new era in Phoenix and citizens of the desert are fired up about the new ownership group that's pumped life into the franchise. A sellout crowd of 17,125 helped spark the Coyotes to a 4-1 season-opening win over the New York Rangers on Thursday with the enthusiasm carrying over onto the ice.
"It was real exciting for us to see how excited those owners were on the ice," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "When they walked back in front of the bench, they looked like they were living their dream, just like we're living our dream with the jobs we have."
While the Coyotes ride the wave of all that's new, the Sharks enter another season ripe with the usual expectations. Many have pegged San Jose as Stanley Cup favorites and the team started 2013-14 off with an impressive 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
Coyotes: Phoenix was sparked by the efforts of forward Radim Vrbata (natural hat trick) and goalie Mike Smith (23 saves). The latter took a big first step in validating a six-year, $34 million contract extension handed to him this summer and gave the Coyotes reasons for optimism in the very early going.
"The emotions and everything that you felt in the building, it brought back memories of the conference finals [in 2012] with how electric this building was," Smith said. "Hopefully it will be like that for the remainder of the season, but what a way to start."
Sharks: Despite going 0-for-8 on the power play against the Canucks, the Sharks scored all their goals playing 5-on-5, a promising sign for a team that ranked 28th in the League last season in even-strength scoring.
"We're going to be fine on the power play," captain Joe Thornton said. "I'm not concerned about that at all and I don't think anybody is. It just was nice to get four goals 5-on-5 for a change and let our 5-on-5 game win us the game."
Who's hot: Vrbata's natural hat trick made him the first NHL player to score three goals in a season finale and in the opener of the following season since Luc Robitaille did it for the Los Angeles Kings in 1988. Vrbata also became the first Coyotes player to open a season with a hat trick and the first to do so on opening night against the Rangers. The Coyotes are 73-17-9 in the 99 games in which Vrbata has scored at least one goal.
The Sharks earned their first win thanks to balanced scoring, but it was 19-year-old rookie Tomas Hertl's impressive NHL debut that drew the most attention. Hertl had an assist, two shots on goal (three other attempts were blocked) and two hits in 16:14 of ice time.
"They said he was big, they said he was fast, that he had a good shot," Thornton said of Hertl. "But until you see it yourself, you don't know."