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by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes opened training camp Friday morning inside Arena with many goals for the 2008-09 NHL season, but the big one is to get this franchise back to the playoffs.

“We’re really excited about everything that we have going (for us), from our two goaltenders, to (Olli) Jokinen, to the young guys … this is a real exciting time for this organization,” Head Coach Wayne Gretzky said.

Players took physical exams on Friday and will skate for the first time on Saturday morning. The first full practice open to the public is tentatively set for Sunday at 9 a.m. at Arena. The team will be split into three groups for the first few days as the coaching staff shapes the roster.

While there are several new players, none is more significant than Jokinen, whom the team acquired in June in a trade with the Florida Panthers for defensemen Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton. Jokinen is the franchise’s first bona fide No. 1 center in a long time, and Gretzky is expecting plenty from the 29-year-old All-Star.

Other new players include defensemen Kurt Sauer and David Hale, and forwards Todd Fedoruk and Brian McGrattan.

Captain Shane Doan, of course, is back for his 12th season with the club. And Peter Mueller, who is expected to play on the top line with Doan and Jokinen, has returned for his sophomore NHL season.

“We’ve got a lot of high expectations for the team,” Mueller said. “We really want to make this team a playoff contender and go after the Stanley Cup this year. We have a great mix of young talent and veterans, and hopefully we’ll get off to a great start and go from there.”

The Coyotes will play eight preseason games and will be there for all of them, home and away. So check in frequently for game coverage, news, features and blogs as the preseason unfolds leading up to the season opener on Oct. 11 vs. Columbus at Arena.
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