At the trade deadline last year, the Rangers traded young wingers Petr Prucha and Nigel Dawes to Phoenix for defenseman Derek Morris, in the hopes of getting a little more physical on defense, and also looking for Morris to help their beleaguered power play.
When Morris provided neither of those things, he was allowed to walk away during free agency, signing with the Boston Bruins, and leaving the Rangers with nothing to show for trading away two young players.
While Ranger fans were mostly divided on what Dawes' potential was, most would agree that Prucha's talent was wasted under the Tom Renney regime. Prucha was often misused, skating on the third and fourth lines with the likes of Blair Betts and Ryan Hollweg as Renney continuously favored veteran players that were no longer worthy of such distinction.
While Prucha is not off to a great start numbers-wise this season, the former thirty goal scorer with the Rangers is playing on the first line with the Coyotes, along with Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata in a new version of a "Czech-mate" line. The three have played well together in the early going, and provided solid play at both ends of the ice, often asked to shadow the other team's top scorers. Prucha is also getting plenty of power play time, taking regular shifts with the man advantage.
Despite his early scoring drought, Prucha has impressed new Coyote coach Dave Tippett:
"I like the way Prucha goes to the net hard," he said. "He's not a big guy. He's scored a couple goals for us just like that that have been big for us. He had one in the Pittsburgh game and then one tonight. They're goals that are hard to score. You have to go into hard areas, so I compliment him on that."
Sounds like Tippett expects Prucha to be the type of player he never really got the chance to be in New York.
I also spoke to Paul (also known as "cityhockeyfever" to our radio show listeners) over at Five for Howling, the SBNation home of the Phoenix Coyotes, and got his thoughts on Prucha so far this season:
Petr Prucha, so far in this young NHL season, has shown that he's a scrapper and has an innate ability to score when his skates are not on the ice. He scored a goal in the second game of the season against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins from his back and then he was lying on his stomach as he pushed the puck past Detroit Red Wings netminder Chris Osgood Thursday night. Both goals were scored in scrums in front of the net, in the crease, and were a result of hard work and tenaciousness, both qualities that the Phoenix Coyotes need plenty of in this pivotal season in the franchises history.
He's currently playing on the "Czech"ing line with fellow Czech Republic teammates Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata, and this line has been instrumental in many of the Coyotes 6 victories so far this season. Whether it's as an energy line, a checking line or a scoring line, this group does it all.
Prucha, has been a shot in the arm for Phoenix. Something tells me, before this season is over, Petr Prucha will prove to be a focal point for this team, and a measuring stick for the success of the Coyotes."