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Camp Confidential: 'Game' Day

Timing and 'compete': Coyotes held first training camp scrimmage Thursday

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

An intrasquad scrimmage highlighted Day 4 of training camp.

It was a short "game" -- but it was the most 5-on-5 the Coyotes have played since March 9. 

The Coyotes will play an exhibition game in two weeks against the Vegas Golden Knights at Rogers Place in Edmonton. Thursday's scrimmage was another step forward.

Team Red defeated Team White, 3-1. Assistant coach John MacLean and Tucson Roadrunners head coach Jay Varady officiated, while head coach Rick Tocchet and assistant coach Phil Housley monitored the benches.

Christian Dvorak scored the first two goals, the first from the slot after receiving a pass from Hudson Fasching. His second came moments later, redirecting a Victor Soderstrom shot from the point. 

Alex Goligoski scored for Team White. Goligoski pinched from the blue-line to receive a pass from Brayden Burke before cutting in diagonally to deposit a wrist shot. 

Oliver Ekman-Larsson added an empty-net goal for Team Red.

Goalies Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta played the entire scrimmage.

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Rick Tocchet feels that the Coyotes must add more scrimmages to their camp routine.

"We're going to have to do a lot more of the 200-foot play," he said. 

"When you do skill drills and you have open ice, it's easy. But once you put pressure on people, that's when you really look at the players' hockey IQ and their 'compete.' I know it's only a scrimmage for a day, but we've got a lot of work to do." 

Tocchet addressed the fatigue factor. Thursday was the fourth consecutive day on the ice. The team is off Friday.

"I think guys were trying to pace themselves because it was the fourth day. So, probably the next scrimmage we'll have a little more 'compete' and a little more hockey IQ." 

Defenseman Jason Demers saw progress.

"There's a little bit of rust being knocked off," he said. "But I think it's just more about bumping around guys and seeing so many players on the ice. We've been skating in small groups, and now we have everybody back. So, it was about getting used to seeing that many bodies on the ice, adjusting your timing. That usually comes pretty quick. The guys did a great job staying in shape; everybody seems to be in top shape and healthy. So, it'll just be about getting our timing back, those little, minute details."

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Christian Dvorak has been impressive.

"He looks like he's come to camp as one of the better in-shape guys," Tocchet said. "In the scrimmage out there, he was skating well, but he was still applying his hockey IQ."

Dvorak set career-highs in goals (18) and points (38) this year. He scored twice during Thursday's scrimmage. 

"This is my third year coaching him, and I can just tell that he's taken steps," Tocchet added. "He got injured last year and missed a lot of games, and that kind of hurt his development. But this year, he's made a difference for us being that two-way centerman who can score some goals and also play some good defense." 

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The Coyotes will be leaving for Edmonton, their hub city, in 10 days.

Is that enough time for the team to be physically, mentally, and systematically prepared? 

"It better be," Jason Demers said. "I mean, it better be. You can't really wade in and dip your toe in, you've really got to jump in headfirst. You've got to figure out a way to get your timing and everything down as quickly as possible. That's on the coaches and on us as a leadership group to make sure that we're firing on all cylinders."

Antti Raanta expects things to move swiftly.

"It feels like it's still a long time before we get there," Raanta said. "But the days are going pretty fast right now. We're just trying to get everyone going. You have to be ready when the puck drops. You have to make sure you take advantage of being ready right away, and surprise Nashville a little bit."

Or, you could just humor Tocchet's irony:

"We've got plenty of time. But we don't have plenty of time, it's one of those things."

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Antti Raanta spent the majority of the pause in Finland. 

"We went back home in early April," he said. "Everything was pretty much locked up in Finland until early June. We enjoyed some family time at home, and I started training again. I played a little golf here and there. My family is still in Finland; I'm back here by myself. I miss them a lot, but it's the same thing for everyone."

Rannta began skating at Gila River Arena during the final week of Phase 2. He's enjoyed the full-team practice uptick.

"It's been a good four days," he said. "You start feeling better and better every day. You're just trying to get the timing and everything else back to normal. It helps when the team is working on the power play or something like that where there are actual bodies in front of you, and you have to make those saves. You build your confidence in the practices. When the games start, you have to be ready to go."

Photo Credit [All]: Janelle Etzel - Arizona Coyotes

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