Temperatures exceeded 100 degrees outside Gila River Arena late Monday morning.
The Coyotes aim to match that on the ice.
"We're asking a group to go from 0 to 100," said head coach Rick Tocchet. "These guys were 'zero' during the pandemic, waiting around and sitting around at home. Now, we're asking them to go 100 miles an hour in a playoff game. So, how do we get to 100 miles an hour? Without burning the engine. That's the key. We need to make sure we hit the fifth gear when it gets to Nashville time."
Monday marked the start of formal training camp (Phase 3) for the Coyotes. It will last through July 26, when the team travels to its hub city, Edmonton. The Coyotes will open their qualifying round play-in series against the Predators on August 2.
TRAINING CAMP ROSTER | POSTSEASON SCHEDULE
Monday marked the team's first large-group skate since March 11, a span of 124 days. Twenty-two players participated, 12 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders.
Participating players included forwards: Lawson Crouse , Christian Dvorak , Christian Fischer , Conor Garland , Taylor Hall , Barrett Hayton , Vinnie Hinostroza , Clayton Keller , Phil Kessel , Brad Richardson , Nick Schmaltz , Carl Soderberg
Defensemen: Jakob Chychrun , Jason Demers , Oliver Ekman-Larsson , Alex Goligoski , Jordan Gross, Niklas Hjalmarsson , Ilya Lyubushkin , Jordan Oesterle
Goaltenders: Darcy Kuemper , Antti Raanta .
Derek Stepan and Michael Grabner did not practice. They are day-to-day.
Tocchet was thoroughly impressed by the team's performance. It exceeded his expectations.
"I really liked the work ethic," he said. "I actually thought the skill level was a lot further [along] after being off so long. That's a credit to the guys skating in Phase 2. The guys were gassed at the end, but I was expecting them to be gassed halfway through.
"It was a good first step to see their condition on the first day. Now, it's recovery and seeing how they react to the second day. Obviously, it's a process, but for the first day, I thought it was a job well done."
Each day of camp will have its own theme, Tocchet added. Tuesday's focus will be on the team's breakout, with an emphasis on countering Nashville's forecheck.
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KUEMPER & HALL: KEY COYOTES
Darcy Kuemper was pleased with the first day of Phase 3.
"You could definitely feel the enthusiasm out there," he said. "For the first day, and to have everyone on [the ice] together, it was really sharp, really crisp, and there was a lot of intensity. I think the excitement carried over into energy. Individually, I felt great, and the team looked really good as well, so it was a great start to camp for us."
Kuemper finished the year ranked in the Top 3 in GAA (2.22) & SV% (.928). He has skated with various teammates since Phase 2 began June 11.
"That was a nice build-up," he said, of Phase 2. "But just to have everyone out there -- the intensity and the repetitions -- those both increased. It was just a good practice all around, it was a great first day and something that we can definitely build off.
Kuemper, 30,was sidelined for more than two months from December 19 - February 25 with a lower-body injury. He is healthy, now.
"Going into any playoff situation, you want to be as healthy as you can," he said. "Across the league, I'm guessing most teams will be as close to healthy as they can be. So, from our standpoint, it's great. We're at our best when we're at full strength, and the strength of our team is our depth. So, to have everyone available, I think that's huge for us. It's nice that we can just focus on our game right now and not worry about having to get guys healthy."
Taylor Hall echoed Kuemper's views of the first day of camp, and the importance of player readiness.
"It was really nice," he said. "We had a lot of guys buy into Phase 2, and a lot of guys were around the arena working on their game and working out with the strength coaches. I think you saw the results of that today. Not only are guys familiar playing with other guys on the team, but they've been skating at the Gila for a while now. I think that always helps, just to feel comfortable. Going into a training camp like this, I think familiarity and comfort is going to be huge going into these games."
Hall returned to Arizona a few weeks ago. He skated in Toronto for about a month prior.
"Conditioning was okay," he said. "I actually felt better last week. I'm not sure what it was. Some days you just don't have the same juice. When you're out there with a lot of guys, sometimes you almost try too hard and you push yourself a little bit harder than you have to. Timing felt good, but I've been on the ice for a while now. I feel like the first day of camp you might not feel the best, but as it goes on, you're going to get those things back pretty quickly if you've put in the work beforehand."
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President of Hockey Operations and General Manager John Chayka stressed that the key to a successful camp is "prevention." It is a 24/7 challenge.
"Our staff has done a tremendous job," Chayka said. "An amazing job, really. In the building, making sure they're doing everything possible to keep these players safe. Talking to the players and talking to the staff, and the education sessions that we've had. Guys are feeling a good mindset and just focused on playing hockey."
Chayka noted the contributions of Head Athletic Trainer Dave Zenobi, Assistant Athletic Trainer Donnie Fuller, Head Equipment Manager Stan Wilson, Head Coach Rick Tocchet as among those who have gone above and beyond.
"These guys have been stars," he said. "This is leadership in a crisis, and they've really stepped up. It's a true test of peoples' character when things go this way, and those specific actors I think have knocked it out of the park in a big way. I'm proud and I'm here to support them and give them the resources they need and help where I can. But ultimately, they're going to run training camp. They understand what's at stake. It's a huge opportunity for our organization. I think they've stepped up and done a phenomenal job."
Tocchet included members of the Tucson Roadrunners' staff as those who have contributed. The coach mentioned by name Roadrunners General Manager Steve Sullivan, Head Coach Jay Varady, and Assistant Coaches Steve Potvin and John Slaney.
"This is a group that's really worked hard the last six weeks," Tocchet said. "I know it's only the first day, and I'm an even keel guy, but I really liked our day today and I think it roots from those types of people. Those guys have been incredible in the last month for us, to get these guys prepared."
Photo Credit [All]: Norm Hall - Arizona Coyotes