Penguins Notebook: Michalek hopes Coyotes find stability
Defenseman Zbynek Michalek on his former team, the Coyotes: "I believe Phoenix can be an NHL city, but there's a lot of work to be done."
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Count defenseman Zbynek Michalek among those whose fingers are crossed that the ownership situation with the Phoenix Coyotes gets resolved this fall. Finally.
Michalek, who signed with the Penguins as a free agent in July after spending the past five seasons with the Coyotes, said the team's bankruptcy, takeover by the NHL, coaching changes, attendance fluctuations and other off-ice maneuverings never were a distraction for players.
Still, he kept up with what was going on, and he still does. Chicago businessman Matt Hulsizer is the latest suitor. He has a verbal agreement to buy the club.
Michalek believes the Phoenix area deserves to keep its team, something he thought was underscored last season when the Coyotes were one of the surprise teams of the NHL, making the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and, by the end of the season, attracting full crowds at Jobing.com Arena.
"I think it's about winning," he said. "That team didn't make the playoffs for a long time. We saw it last year, by the end of the season, we sold out games. The playoffs were sold out. The whole city got behind us.
"Hopefully, when the ownership gets settled, the people will get behind the team. They have a good team. They're going to be good -- a young team, a hard-working team. So I believe Phoenix can be an NHL city, but there's a lot of work to be done."
Michalek had to set aside some of those concerns Saturday night when he faced his former team for the first time.
"Kind of mixed feelings," he said. "I spent a great five years there. I have a lot of great memories, and I still have a lot of friends there. Last year we had a good year and we turned everything around. We felt the support of the city. We had a great group of guys and a great coaching staff. It made my decision even tougher to leave."
The Penguins will be without assistant Tony Granato for practice Monday, but it couldn't be for a more festive reason.
He will be in Toronto to see his younger sister, Cammi, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Cammi Granato, for years the face of women's hockey in the United States, and former Canadian star Angela James, will be the first women inducted.
"To say I'm proud is probably an understatement," Tony Granato said. You think about a girl playing hockey and everything she had to do -- any girl that played sports in that era.
"I think it's courageous on their part to say, 'Let's look at the girls and see if we can find someone deserving.'"
As thrilled as Tony is, he figures the induction ceremony will be beyond what he can imagine.
"When you get there Monday and you see what's really happening, you stop and say, 'Wow. Just wow.'
"I'm glad I'll be there. I think it's deserved. I think it's still a surprise [because of the gender barrier]."
After playing four road games in a row and seven of their past eight away from Consol Energy Center, the Penguins play their next two and five of their next six at home. ... Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, on his philosophy on luck: "I'm not a big believer in the word, luck. In the game of hockey and in most things, there seem to be bounces. You can talk about a post or a bounce off of the boards and call that luck, but when the game's played a certain way, at the end the team that [wins] dictates the game and has the game in their favor." ... The Penguins have a scheduled day off today.
First Published November 7, 2010 12:37 am