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The Desert Dog Blog: Can't Wait for Summer to End

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
GLENDALE – I realize it doesn’t feel like it outside in the triple-digit heat, but the Coyotes’ off-season quickly is coming to an end.


In 11 days, the crew at Jobing.com Arena will begin installing the ice for the 2011-12 season, and soon after they’re finished training camp will begin for the rookies and the veterans a week later.

I’m excited for another season of Coyotes hockey to begin. I believe the team is poised for a third consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Here are just a few of the things I'm looking forward to watching on the ice in 2011-12:

The Home Opener: After starting the season with three games on the road, the Coyotes will play their home opener on Oct. 15 against the newly reborn Winnipeg Jets. The Coyotes, of course, were the Winnipeg Jets before the franchise moved to Phoenix in 1996. The “new” Jets are the old Atlanta Thrashers. I am most eager to witness the vibe in the arena on that night as Coyotes fans defend home turf in round one of what promises to be a fun new rivalry.

Shane Doan’s 300th Goal/Return to Winnipeg: The Coyotes captain will enter his 16th NHL season just four goals shy of 300 for his career. It will be fun to watch Doan add that goal to his highleet reel. It will also be interesting to see how Doan is received in Winnipeg when the Coyotes play there on Dec. 1. Doan played 74 games for the Jets in 1995-96 before the team moved to Phoenix after that season. Doan is the only player from the '95-96 Jets set to play in the NHL this season.

Mike Smith As Starter: I can’t wait to see how Mike Smith responds to being a No. 1 goalie in the NHL. I remember witnessing him shut out the Coyotes in his NHL debut in Glendale on Oct. 22, 2006 - against Curtis Joseph no less - and thinking big things were in Smith's future. I still think that. From what I’ve heard from him and others, he is definitely up for tackling the starting job and, unlike some other goalies, he’s the type of goalie who is endeared by teammates. I am also eager to see his new goalie mask and get the scoop on its design.

The New Glass: We posted a video this week here at phoenixcoyotes.com about the new NHL-mandated glass surrounding the playing surface inside Jobing.com Arena. It’s much lighter than the glass around the ice in previous seasons and much more flexible. It should make for fewer injuries and some memorable, eye-popping hits. I’m also guessing it will create a spilled drink or two for first-row fans accustomed to resting their beverages on the ledge of the former glass.

Torres
Raffi Torres Hit/Score: The Coyotes lacked nastiness in the 2011 playoffs but addressed that need just hours after the free-agent signing period began on July 1 when they signed Raffi Torres to a multi-year contract. Torres is one of those players you love to watch when he’s on the ice because not only can he deliver a highlight-reel check he can also score a nifty goal when needed.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Contact Dave Vest at thedesertdogblog@phoenixcoyotes.com and follow him on Twitter @davest4yotes.
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