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Tocchet: 'We're Healthy and We're Ready to Go'

Coyotes head to hub city; qualifying round series against Nashville begins in one week

by 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.

He did all of that with thoughts of thanks for his team's health. The Coyotes announced the 31-player roster set and ready to go. 

"We're probably as healthy as we've ever been," Tocchet said. "I'm sure a lot of teams will say the same thing. But we're healthy and we're ready to go." 

Tocchet was pleased with the players' healthy protocols outside the rink.  

"The safety precautions, it's part of our game plan," he said. "Being safe and doing the right thing is part of the game plan. Now, it's about getting on the plane safely, and then dealing with the elements when we get to Edmonton. It's just a gradual step. Do your thing, everything you've been doing, and then get on that flight."

And then it'll start to get real.

"When we get to Edmonton and we're in the bubble -- now there's going to be another level of focus in that playoff atmosphere," Tocchet said. "But you don't want to peak too early. I don't want these guys to start thinking Game 1 right now, because by the time that game comes around it'll hit you too hard. I just want them to relax. They've dealt with what we've thrown at them fairly well, and now there's another level in Edmonton."

Focus and intensity are key elements for playoff success. Balance is going to be of utmost importance, too.

"When you're away from the rink, it's important to relax your mind. Guys will hang out and play cards and play Xbox or whatever to relax. You've got to be able to clear your mind. You can't think hockey 24/7. But when it's time to think hockey, obviously you've got to be dialed in." 

As for being "dialed in," Tocchet singled out Clayton Keller.

"Keller has probably been our best player in camp, as far as consistency," Tocchet said. "For me, I look for guys that stay consistent, and he's consistent. I haven't seen much drop-off in his play, and there's a lot of confidence (in him right now). He's handling the puck, taking his shot. You can tell he's dialed in. So, now, it's just to continue that and put it into a game situation. He's been excellent." 

Keller led the Coyotes in scrimmage scoring with five goals.

Conor Garland scored four times. Lawson Crouse, Christian Dvorak, Vinnie Hinostroza, Nick Schmaltz, Carl Soderberg, and Derek Stepan had two goals, apiece; Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski, Phil Kessel, and Jordan Oesterle had one each.

Scrimmages are one thing. But live hockey, live playoff hockey? Tocchet hopes his team embraces the moment.

"We've practiced a lot and have had scrimmages, but we haven't had a whole lot of live competition," he said. "And that's a whole different ball of wax. A lot of our players are going to get a crash course on how it is to play playoff hockey. I'm anxious to see how they're going to do.

"I believe in pressure hockey, and how you handle things under pressure. I'm anxious to see how we are in eight days, under pressure. And that's going to be the key to win -- handling pressure."

Photo Credit [All]: Norm Hall - Arizona Coyotes

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