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Camp Confidential: Sound, Style, and Rhythm

Arena tunes, player wear, and setting the clocks for afternoon hockey

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

 A new training camp note: Cue the music.

The Coyotes implemented additional game-like characteristics to their scrimmage Wednesday -- warm-up music; three 12-minute periods with a stopped clock; official "TV" timeouts with the usual shovel scrape routine; Zamboni resurfacing between each period, and two "referees" assessing penalties. Assistant coach John MacLean and Tucson Roadrunners head coach Jay Varady drew "zebra" duties.

Some of the additions may seem trivial, but not to head coach Rick Tocchet. His staff continues to install real-time particulars as the Coyotes head toward a return to action.

"Some people might think it's corny, but not for me," Tocchet said. "I think that stuff is important. There's going to be music in that big Edmonton arena with no fans, so we're trying to make (the players) familiar with what it's going to be like -- the TV timeouts, small stuff like that. It's all important."

Wednesday's result: Team Red defeated Team White, 3-2.

Nick Schmaltz opened the scoring for Team White. His attempted pass to Phil Kessel at the front of the net ricocheted off of the backchecking Conor Garland and into the net.

Lawson Crouse evened the score, 1-1, when he deposited a one-timer from the top of the left circle. Crouse trailed Clayton Keller on a zone entry; Keller provided the drop-pass set-up. 

The first special-teams goal came shorthanded, when Jordan Oesterle joined a rush up ice, received a pass from Brad Richardson and found the net with a wrist shot from the high slot. Oesterle's penalty-kill goal gave Team White the lead, 2-1.

Team Red responded with a pair of goals late in the third period. Garland caught a stretch pass from Victor Soderstrom to score on a breakaway and Keller buried the game-winner after cashing in on a front-net feed from Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

Goalies Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta played the entire game, for teams White and Red, respectively.

"Guys were trying more today to finish checks, stop on pucks, and play more like you would in a game," Richardson said. "It just takes time. You have to get your body used to that, battling and all that stuff. So, I think today was a big step."

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The NHL will not implement a pre- or post-game dress code for the players.

So, how will the Coyotes outfit themselves to and from games in Edmonton? 

According to Rick Tocchet, captain Ekman-Larsson has a team wardrobe in the works.

"Oliver came to me (about that)," Tocchet said. "I think he's buying them some kind of outfit. I'm not sure what it is, but I said 'Sure.' I don't mind guys coming to the rink in a smart, professional way, but I want them comfortable too. I was told there wouldn't be much laundry (in the bubble), so, you've got to pick and choose what you bring. I want these guys to be comfortable and thinking hockey. As long as they look good and smart, I have no problem with what they wear."

Tocchet isn't worried about guys pushing fashion boundaries, or dressing too casual. He knows there will be considerations of creativity and comfort, and he's on board. 

"Guys like to express themselves in different ways," he said. "And that's fine by me. I think the veteran guys, they keep a good handle on everything. A guy's not going to wear ripped jeans and an AC/DC t-shirt or something like that, I think they'll patrol that pretty good. Most of our guys dress well, and if they have a uniform and want to wear a nice whatever it is, I've got no problem with it." 

Richardson, who is in on the plan, was mum about details Wednesday. But did give a hint.

"We've got some stuff going here," he said. "We're going to go fairly, kind of as a team, it looks like. It's kind of more relaxed than we're used to. But we're definitely going to have kind of a team coordinated tracksuits, if you will."

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The Coyotes are adjusting their internal clocks for matinee hockey against the Predators in Edmonton.

The local start times for the first three games of the qualifying round are scheduled for 12:00 p.m., 12:30 p.m., and 12:30 p.m. 

Training camp practices were scheduled in the late-morning, noon, and early-afternoon range as an additional detail to the preparation.

"You've got to change your whole mentality right now," Tocchet said. "Once you wake up in the morning and you have your breakfast, you've got to prepare for that 11:30 practice like it's going to be your best practice. We're trying to preach that to a lot of guys right now. You have to come in prepared at 11:30. We don't have time for 'I just woke up, I didn't have a coffee,' and it's 10 minutes into practice. That can happen sometimes. We've warned the players that we cannot have that thinking mode going into the 12:30 games."

Afternoon games will not include the normal morning skates, a staple for traditional evening games. 

"I think you have to warm-up differently," Tocchet said. "Not just your mind, but physically. You have to warm up more, get a little more of a sweat earlier on. There's got to be a little more pace to your warm-up. It's almost like boxers. Boxers, before they even hit the ring, they're already sweaty and dirty and ready to go. That's no different than these afternoon games. You've got to be ready to go. You can't wait, you can't treat it like a practice."

Alex Goligoski is confident the team has taken the right approach, time-wise.

"We're in no sort of rhythm like we would be in a normal season right now," he said. "We're practicing around that time every day. So, our bodies and minds should be ramped up for games at that time of day. Once we start playing those later games, we'll have to adjust for those, but this should be no problem."

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The Coyotes have guys who know what it takes -- and what it's like -- to win a Stanley Cup. 

Rick Tocchet rattled off a few examples earlier this week.

"You've got Niklas Hjalmarsson, a three-time winner; you've got Phil Kessel, a two-time winner. Brad Richardson's won, Derek Stepan has been in the finals, and Alex Goligoski has won a Cup. We've got some guys that have won hardware."

Richardson was a member of the 2012 Los Angeles Kings squad that shocked the league by winning the Stanley Cup as an eight-seed, toppling four favored clubs along the way.

Those Kings entered the postseason flying under the radar.

The Coyotes are in that same position, now. 

"I see a lot of the similarities (with this team) when I was with the Kings," Richardson said. "Really good goaltending and stingy defense. When we were playing our best hockey, we were very, very stingy. I think that's got to be our M.O. going into the playoffs in order to really give ourselves a chance. We definitely have some high-end players, but when we're playing our best hockey it's goaltending and out, and we go from there."

Goligoski won it all in 2009 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

"That team in Pittsburgh, they were really unfazed by anything, good or bad," he said. "There was this mentality of the team where it was 'You move on,' and I think that's something Tocc really works with us on here."

Tocchet preaches an "even-keel" and "never too high, never too low" mantra. The attitude is ingrained in this Coyotes club, Goligoski says.

"Whatever, good or bad; good day, bad day; good shift, bad shift -- you just keep moving forward and you just keep marching forward. I think that's a quality that really good teams have. They trust in what they do, they know they're a good team and they just go out and do it. Most nights they're able to dig deep and win." 

As to winning the ultimate prize, Richardson added: "There are many different emotions. You can't believe it happened. You're absolutely exhausted, fatigued, but there's that relief. Seeing your buddies lift it -- it's the best feeling you'll ever have. I get chills thinking about it. Lifting it, and seeing your friends and family lift it …

"It's amazing."

Photo Credit [All]: Norm Hall - Arizona Coyotes

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