Tocchet: 'We're Healthy and We're Ready to Go'
Coyotes head to hub city; qualifying round series against Nashville begins in one weekby Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes are headed to Edmonton after head coach Rick Tocchet described Saturday as the best practice of training camp.
"I really liked our energy," Tocchet said of Saturday's session. "I've been searching for that level of energy. We had pockets of it all through camp, but I think coming into the plane ride, (that) was our best practice. That's a great sign."
After 13 days and 11 sessions, Tocchet enjoyed his last night in Arizona by cooking dinner and going for a walk. Nothing earth-shattering. He considers himself a big routine guy, after all. Oh, and he finished packing, which included ironing a few shirts.
Camp Confidential: Three for Keller, One for the Road
Offense leads the way, Ekman-Larsson "okay", final camp practice scheduled for Saturdayby Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes
Christian Dvorak succinctly summed up Friday's final training camp scrimmage:
"Kells was buzzing today."
Clayton Keller scored a hat trick to lift Team Red past Team White, 6-4.
Keller finished third on the team in regular season goals (17) and second in points (44). He and his linemates, Derek Stepan and Lawson Crouse, accounted for all six of Team Red's goals. Stepan scored twice.
Rick Tocchet noticed.
"I thought (Stepan's) line with Crouse (and Keller) -- they were the best line out there. Keller was so dominant, and Step was great."
Camp Confidential: The Pack Begins to Pack
Anticipation mounts as Coyotes prepare to leave for Edmonton on Sundayby Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes
Christian Fischer has begun packing for Edmonton.
"I took out my suitcases today and I was like 'How many do I need?'
"This is going to be a little different than even our longest road trip of the year, and that's only like 10 days. No matter what, we're going to be there for 10 days, at least."
The Coyotes leave for the "bubble" in three days. How long will they be there? Well, the longer, the better.
"Obviously we've seen and followed along with the NBA guys (in their Orlando bubble) and see their whole situation," Fischer said. "I don't think many of us have thought too much into it, with where we're staying and what it's all going to look like."
Camp Confidential: Sound, Style, and Rhythm
Arena tunes, player wear, and setting the clocks for afternoon hockeyby Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes
A new training camp note: Cue the music.
The Coyotes implemented additional game-like characteristics to their scrimmage Wednesday -- warm-up music; three 12-minute periods with a stopped clock; official "TV" timeouts with the usual shovel scrape routine; Zamboni resurfacing between each period, and two "referees" assessing penalties. Assistant coach John MacLean and Tucson Roadrunners head coach Jay Varady drew "zebra" duties.
Some of the additions may seem trivial, but not to head coach Rick Tocchet. His staff continues to install real-time particulars as the Coyotes head toward a return to action.
"Some people might think it's corny, but not for me," Tocchet said. "I think that stuff is important. There's going to be music in that big Edmonton arena with no fans, so we're trying to make (the players) familiar with what it's going to be like -- the TV timeouts, small stuff like that. It's all important."
Horsepower: Coyotes Captain Seizes the Reins at Training Camp
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is ready for a postseason rideby Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes
Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson has been a focused standout at Coyotes training camp.
It's off the ice when he, well, horses around.
Captain? Cowboy? At times, for the blue-liner, it's both.
Ekman-Larsson balances hockey passion with a love of horses. It's an off-ice hobby many fans became familiar with when he posted a photo on his Instagram account in March.
His equestrianism fits right into the Coyotes' return-to-play philosophy of prioritizing a balance of body and mind during the condensed schedule.
"It's about getting away from the rink and rebooting yourself," said head coach Rick Tocchet, who has provided two off days for the team through the first nine days of camp.
Camp Confidential: Healthy Bodies, Focused Minds
Coyotes seeing steady improvements one week into training campby Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes capped their first week of training camp with a highly energetic practice Monday at Gila River Arena.
Rick Tocchet feels everything is moving in the right direction. Especially the scrimmages, which have become a practice staple.
"The trend is that it's gotten better each time -- the pace -- which I like," Tocchet said.
The little things, game-simulated things continue to be important, such as responding with a jump after between-period breaks. When play resumes, the skaters face a slick, fast sheet of ice. They need to be ready to go from the start. That's why Tocchet has the ice Zambonied before camp scrimmages.
In Goalies They Trust: Coyotes' Tandem Breeds Confidence
Coyotes counting on deep goaltending for a lengthy playoff runby Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes have at least two major reasons for playoff optimism.
Their names are Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta.
"I think the key for us is certainly goaltending," said President of Hockey Operations and General Manager John Chayka. "It's just a big part of our team."
The Coyotes were No. 3 in the NHL this season in team goals-against average (2.61). Kuemper and Raanta were a big reason why.
And their success is nothing new.
Talking Playoffs: A Matter of Chatter
Coyotes want vocal cords in mid-season formby Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes
You won't hear any sounds from the stands during the fan-less playoffs, but you might hear more from the players.
With no noise from the seats, you could hear more banter from the ice.
As a result, you should be able to see the players walk their talk.
"I think it could be really cool," Derek Stepan said, about the possibility of captured conversations.
"Fans are going to experience some things I think that are really going to allow them to like certain players (even more)," he said. "I think it's going to be a cool part of the game. You see golfers being mic'd up now. That makes it really enjoyable to watch, and I really compare it to that. I think there's going to be a lot of really solid gameplay stuff that the fans will really enjoy."
Camp Confidential: 'Game' Day
Timing and 'compete': Coyotes held first training camp scrimmage Thursdayby Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes
An intrasquad scrimmage highlighted Day 4 of training camp.
It was a short "game" -- but it was the most 5-on-5 the Coyotes have played since March 9.
The Coyotes will play an exhibition game in two weeks against the Vegas Golden Knights at Rogers Place in Edmonton. Thursday's scrimmage was another step forward.
Team Red defeated Team White, 3-1. Assistant coach John MacLean and Tucson Roadrunners head coach Jay Varady officiated, while head coach Rick Tocchet and assistant coach Phil Housley monitored the benches.
Camp Confidential: Shot of Confidence
A good day for the power play, Grabner's return, seeing gold, and Hayton's rookie adventureby Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes
The power play units were electric Wednesday afternoon.
Head coach Rick Tocchet felt a surge of confidence.
"I liked the energy," Tocchet said. "We got a bunch of goals. What helps your confidence is that you keep doing the right things, I always say.
"It's amazing because early on, we were struggling. We weren't shooting the puck. Players were barking at each other, and I barked at a couple of guys just to tell them that if we don't shoot the puck, we're not going to open things up. And then all of a sudden Chychrun started shooting, and then Hall, and we started scoring goals. That's the whole mentality. Someone's got to be willing to take a shot to open things up. When we did that, I liked it."