Different place, same pace.
The Coyotes ended training camp on a high note Saturday in Arizona with what head coach Rick Tocchet described as the team's best training-camp practice. They picked up right where they left off in Edmonton, despite travel and new surroundings.
"The pace was good, it was really good actually," Tocchet said. "That's obviously a good sign for a coach, when your team's coming off an off day and your team comes in sharp. It was a little less than an hour-long practice, and I think we accomplished a lot."
The Coyotes practice at Terrwillager Arena, which has four rinks and hosts all 12 Western Conference teams. The rink is located a 25-minute drive from downtown Edmonton and Sutton Place Hotel, where the Coyotes are lodged.
The third line trio of Clayton Keller, Derek Stepan and Lawson Crouse continues to impress. Tocchet also praised Vinnie Hinostroza and Christian Fischer, two players from the fourth line.
"(Stepan's) line, Keller and Crouse, they're setting the pace in practice," Tocchet said. "I really like the way Vinnie and (Fischer) have bounced back. I thought they started out slow but the last three or four practices they've also been setting the pace for us, which we need."
Veteran blue-line leadership has been critical in maintaining the training-camp focus and energy. Tocchet singled out Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Alex Goligoski for their strong examples.
"With those guys doing the right things, it really makes your practice better and the pace better," Tocchet said. "That's the big part."
Adapting to new surroundings can be distracting. Conor Garland notes it can also be positive.
"I think we've been practicing well, Garland said. "I think sometimes change is good, especially if you're in Arizona for a while there just kind of doing the same thing. We came out here and we're feeling like we're getting closer and closer. Our intensity has picked up, our pace of practice. I think we had a good day Monday, and we expect the same moving forward."
Morning and early afternoon practices were standard for training camp. The players now are adjusting their internal clocks to their practice time in Edmonton.
"I think we'll get more comfortable each day," Garland said. "We have a 2:30 practice slot which is a bit different for us. But we've adjusted pretty well."
Players don't head for the rink after waking up, as is their usual custom. Tocchet noted there will be more time "waiting around." He wants the team to use the down time to its advantage.
"The players will have to stay mentally strong," Tocchet said. "You'll have to be moving your body, you can't just be laying around, so that's the one thing we've discussed as a team."
Team meetings are the morning agenda.
"We're going to have video sessions before we hit the busses (to practice)," Tocchet said. "That's something that we're going to try to do regularly to get their mind on hockey."
Jakob Chychrun emphasized the importance of soaking up as much as possible in team meetings and video sessions. Especially with the exhibition game against Vegas a mere 48 hours away.
"We've got a lot of things set in place and we're going to be prepared for it," Chychrun said. "I think the one (exhibition) game with Vegas is going to be good for us. We'll get back to playing against guys who aren't on the same team, get that competition going again. Everyone's in the same boat. Nashville has one game before they're playing us, so we're just going to do the best we can to get ready. Vegas gives us a good opportunity to get our legs under us and our timing back."
The Coyotes will practice Wednesday. But Tocchet senses the thirst for a return to meaningful play.
"I think guys are itching to play," Tocchet said. "I think that's No. 1. The teams want to get their systems in and get the rust off of certain players. Guys being able to go back for pucks, take some hits, go to the net, just feel the heat again."
For real, again -- and finally.
Lead Photo Credit: Kevin Abele - Icon Sportswire via Getty Images // Second Photo Credit: Christian Petersen - Getty Images // Footer Photo Credit: Christian Petersen - Getty Images