GLENDALE, Ariz. -- For the Phoenix Coyotes, the 2012-13 hurry-up-and-get-ready shortened season was a nightmare scenario for a team that relies on system play and good goaltending.
But in 2013-14, the Coyotes not only have had a full training camp to get veterans ready and see young players step into the lineup, they are one of the last teams to open the regular season, as they host the New York Rangers on Thursday at Jobing.com Arena.
"We have to be a real consistent team and we've had a good chance to build those habits in camp," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "Our last preseason game [a win against San Jose last Friday] was a good example of where we need to be and a good blueprint for how we need to play. That was a shortcoming last year and we're aware of how it affected us. We don't want to miss the playoffs again."
The Coyotes will be without defenseman Rostislav Klesla (concussion), but the team has eight other defensemen on the roster, with David Schlemko and David Rundblad beating out Michael Stone for the last two spots in the starting lineup. Stone was a fixture last season, but will start this one watching.
"[Rundblad and Schlemko] are both smart players and good puck-movers," Tippett said. "The forwards like to play with them because there is a chance to get the puck up the ice and make plays. [Stone] was a very good player for us last season, and when we get Rusty [Klesla] back we will have a lot of decisions to make every night."
Klesla returned to the ice Tuesday for the first time in nearly a month, but he's limited to light skating with no contact at this time.
All 12 eligible forwards on the Phoenix roster are in the lineup while Paul Bissonnette begins a three-game suspension incurred during the preseason.
The Rangers will be without captain Ryan Callahan, who is recovering from shoulder surgery. Callahan is on the road trip -- the Rangers will play their first nine games away from home while renovations are completed at Madison Square Garden -- but could be ready as soon as Sunday, when New York visits the Los Angeles Kings.
Here are the expected lineups for the Rangers and Coyotes:
Injured: Rostislav Klesla (concussion)
Suspended: Paul Bissonnette