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For Reirden, a special start

His first season opener as an AHL head coach comes tonight against Syracuse.

WILKES-BARRE TWP. – Although he has 38 regular season and playoff games under his belt, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach Todd Reirden is looking forward to experiencing another coaching first – his first season opener.

That will happen tonight when the Penguins host Syracuse at 7:05 at the Wachovia Arena. For Reirden, the game concludes his first training camp as a head coach and gives him a chance to see just how well his players have done learning the system.

“Over the last few years the coaches before me have done such a good job of making it clear what type of hockey we play here,” Reirden said. “Until you actually see it in game action, I’m not sure how close we are. Guys are getting an understanding for how we play the game, and now is my first chance to see it.”

It will also be a chance for Reirden to add to his coaching experience. Reirden was promoted from assistant to the head coaching position late in the regular season, taking over for Dan Bylsma, who moved up to the NHL and eventually led the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup title.

“The home opener will be the last ‘first time’ thing I have. A lot of my coaching has been going back to my experiences as a player,” said Reirden. “Now I’ll be able to start going back to my experiences as a coach.”

Reirden isn’t the only one looking to gain experience from tonight’s game.

Of the 28 players on the opening-day roster, 15 are either rookies or entering their second AHL season. Although Reirden hasn’t yet decided who will play and who will sit tonight, he stressed that the young players will get plenty of chances as the season progresses.

“Right now there’s not a lot of extra players in Pittsburgh and that will change. Injuries are part of the game and we can have a very rookie-laden lineup at some point,” he said. “I think we’ll start off with some older guys, but there will still be a number of younger guys in the lineup.”

NOTES

• Adam Berkhoel missed the last two practices after suffering a setback in his recovery from knee surgery. Reirden said with a light schedule this week he wanted to give Berkhoel more time to rest. Brad Thiessen will serve as John Curry’s backup at goalie for the home opener.

• Ryan Bayda, who was recently sent down from Pittsburgh, flew back to his home in Saskatchewan to pick up his family and rest some nagging injuries. Reirden said he won’t play tonight but will join the team on Monday.

• Casey Pierro-Zabotel flew back to British Columbia on Friday to be with his wife, who was having a baby.

• Jesse Boulerice and Konstantin Pushkarev signed 25-game PTO’s with the WBS Penguins.

Tonight’s Game

Syracuse Crunch at WBS Pengiuns

7:05, Wachovia Arena

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