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by Staff Writer / Arizona Coyotes

By: Chad Lynch

On Tuesday, the Phoenix Coyotes hit the ice for the first official session of the 2005 training camp.  It was also the first on-ice session instructed by head coach Wayne Gretzky.

Gretzky and associate coaches Barry Smith, Rick Tocchet and Rick Bowness along with Pat Conacher (head coach of AHL affiliate San Antonio Rampage) oversaw the practice sessions for each of the three groups in camp.

"It was a good session this morning," said Gretzky.  "A lot of these guys haven't played in over a year so we wanted to give them a chance to come back in and get their footing back for the first few practices."

Gretzky acknowledged that he has an impressive task ahead of him, but one he is eagerly looking forward to.

"Today was the first day and I know I still have a lot to learn, but it is that learning that excites me," said Gretzky.  "When I was with Team Canada, it really made me want to get more involved in the teaching side of the game and that was a big factor in my decision to coach."

While the Coyotes will certainly have a more improved line-up for the 2005-06 season, Gretzky knows that teams around the league aren't going to just give the Coyotes respects, regardless of who is behind the bench.

"There is certainly more pressure on this team than there has been in past years," said Gretzky.  "Nobody is going to give us respect.  It will be our job to go out and earn it by the way we play as a team." 

Following the Team "A" practice session, was the daily scrimmage, which saw Team "A" defeat Team "B" by a score of 5-0.

The first half of the scrimmage featured starting goaltenders Curtis Joseph (Team "A") and Brian Boucher (Team "B").  Mike Johnson opened the scoring for Team "A" when he jumped on a turnover at his own blue line, raced up ice along the right hand boards and blasted a slap shot from the top of the right circle that beat Boucher high over the glove for the 1-0 lead.

Minutes later Lance Monych made it 2-0 when he took a loose puck from the corner of the offensive zone, quickly moved to the front of the net and slid a backhand shot in for the two-goal lead.

Team "B" nearly cut the lead in half just a minute later when Kiel McLeod fired a wrist shot through traffic, that beat Curtis Joseph, but hit the crossbar and was sent into the stands.

Mike Comrie scored the first of his two goals on the day just before the end of the first half.  After a breakaway pass was swatted down by a high stick from a Team "B" defenseman, Comrie quickly picked up the loose puck, skated in close on Boucher and blasted the puck high over the glove for a 3-0 lead at the mid-way mark.

In the second half of the scrimmage Pier-Olivier Pelletier guarded the nets for Team "A," while Dov Grumet-Morris replaced Boucher for Team "B."

The second half of the game saw more offense from Team "A" as they made it a 4-0 game when Oleg Saprykin gained control of a loose puck at the right side of the net and quickly raced to the front of the net where he stuffed it past Grumet-Morris.

Comrie finished the scoring when he made it a 5-0 game late in the second half.  Comrie took a drop pass from Sean O'Donnell along the left hand boards, drove to the net and tried to slide it in.  Grumet-Morris made the initial save, but gave Comrie a point blank rebound, which the sniper flipped into the net.

On Wednesday, Team "B" will return to the ice, this time against Team "C."  The scrimmage will start at 1:00 pm at Glendale Arena.  All scrimmages and practice sessions during training camp are open to the public.

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