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'Going To Be Ready': Kessel Sees Coyotes Cup Synergy

The two-time Stanley Cup champion touches on Tocchet, training camp, and the playoff stage

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

Phil Kessel enters the playoffs for a third time with Rick Tocchet. They're two-for-two.

Might three be Arizona history?

The pair won back-to-back Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2017, when Tocchet was a Penguins assistant coach. Tocchet was named Coyotes head coach in July 2017.

"He's won as a player, and as a coach," Kessel said. "He has a lot of experience and knows what it takes to win. It's a different mindset, it takes a lot, but it's well worth it."

Training camp is expected to open July 10. Player-coach synergy will be critical. 

"We're going to have to get into it right away," Kessel stressed. "It's going to be a different [type of] playoffs than ever before, obviously. Without fans and everything, it's going to be strange. I think guys know what they're playing for, and we all want the chance to win."

The Coyotes will play the Predators in the qualifying round. Kessel scored his first goal as a Coyote in a 5-2 win over Nashville on October 17.

Video: NSH@ARI: Kessel scores first goal with Coyotes

Kessel spent time at his Florida home with family during the pause. He returned to Arizona three weeks ago and has been skating with teammates as part of the Phase 2 small-group training.

"We'll have the camp to get ready and try to get into it," he said. "I think the team that gets into it the fastest and can get into shape and play well -- I think they've got a big advantage."

Kessel, 32, said he played through more injuries this year than ever before, though he played in all 70 regular season games. He owns the third-longest active consecutive games-played streak in the NHL: 844 games.

"Obviously I had a tough year," he said. "I think it's probably the most injuries I've had in a year, but that's no excuse, right? It's one of those years, and obviously I'm not going to look to never have that again. I've never had a year like that."

He has a chance at a fresh start. And, a healthy one.

"I feel good right now," Kessel said. "I feel better than I did all year, so I'm excited. My body feels good, I feel rested. And I'm going to be ready to go." 

Though he wasn't particularly pleased with his production this season, Kessel noted that the respite has been a major benefit, both mentally and physically.

"I'm looking to bounce back," he said. "And this is a good time to get started again." 

Kessel has met the occasion and pressure-packed situations, and knows the value of experience. He has 77 points (33G, 44A) in 87 career playoff games.

"I think it matters," he said. "Guys who have been there in those spots. They know what to expect and what to do. To be honest, it's a different level of hockey. It's a faster, more crisp game. It's a fun time of year."

Kessel experienced his first playoff game April 10, 2008, as a Boston Bruin against the Canadiens in Montreal. 

"That's a long time ago," he said. "You remember the atmosphere, that's the thing that you remember most. You know, there's nothing like that. I think that's the one negative about this -- we're not going to get to experience it in front of fans this year. It's a different dynamic. Our team's going to be ready, and hopefully we can win some games."

Lead Photo Credit: Kevin Anggara - Arizona Coyotes // Footer Photo Credit: Kevin Anggara - Arizona Coyotes

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