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'Yotes Notes: Five-Man Mentality is Focus at Camp

The Coyotes dropped the puck on training camp with three skates at Gila River Arena

by Dave Vest @davest4yotes / Coyotes Sr. Director of News Content

Coyotes Camp: Playfair Q&A

Jim Playfair following Day One of training camp

Associate coach Jim Playfair discusses the first day of training camp at Gila River Arena and more

  • 04:17 •

GLENDALE - The Coyotes opened training camp on Friday with three 90-minute skates at Gila River Arena, one each for three teams of about 20 players.

With two split-squad preseason games vs. Los Angeles looming on Monday, the goal was to get the players into a five-man mentality in all three zones.  

"The biggest thing we're trying to do is get the players away from the habits they have in the summertime and get them back into some structured forecheck, structured neutral zone and some defensive zone responsibilities, and just kind of get them back in that mind-set of having players bump into each other and compete a little bit harder," said Associate Coach Jim Playfair, who filled in for Head Coach Dave Tippett as Tippett traveled back to Arizona from the World Cup of Hockey on Friday. "Their energy was good, their talk was good and they recognize it's an important part of us becoming a good team early."

The Coyotes will have three similar practices on Saturday, and then the players will be divided into two new teams for a scrimmage on Sunday at noon.

"I thought it went well," newcomer Jamie McGinn said after Team A's first skate. "It was good to get a skate underneath our belts, and be out there with the guys. We're ready to work and ready to get this season going. It's been a long off-season with the World Cup and everything being pushed back."

• Tippett arrived at the arena on Friday afternoon and watched the third skate. He plans to lead the three skates on Saturday after serving as an assistant coach for Team North America, which failed to qualify for the World Cup of Hockey semifinals despite winning two of its three games.

"It was a fun team to be around - the enthusiasm and the passion these kids play with is infectious," Tippett said.

• Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Team Sweden) and forward Tobias Rieder (Team Europe), who is unsigned, are still competing at the World Cup of Hockey. Center Martin Hanzal and defenseman Zbynek Michalek finished their participation on Team Czech Republic on Thursday and are expected to report to camp in the middle of next week.

Playfair said the Coyotes coaches are not worried about the World Cup players being behind when they arrive.

"They're going to come in and they're gong to have a real good pace to their game," Playfair said. "… When they come to the latter part of the training camp with the exhibition games, their confidence level, their conditioning level, their alertness, their game play is going to be right up there where we need it to be. I think they're going to do a really good job in dragging some of the other guys up to that level."

He added: "We haven't changed our systems. We've maintained the same systems and they're top pros. They're dialed in. They'll be fine."

• Forward Anthony Duclair is looking to build off a solid rookie season in which he notched 20 goals and 24 assists.

"Last year my mind-set was just to make the team and stay in the lineup," Duclair said. "This year, now that I have made it, I want to be more consistent. I'm obviously looking for more ice time and I'm just going to be consistent in staying hungry throughout the year. It's a long season, so I've got to make sure I'm ready for that."

• Captain Shane Doan skated with Team B on Friday on the first day of his 21st NHL season. Some of the players on the ice with Doan - Ryan MacInnis and Adin Hill - weren't born when Doan broke into the League in 1995.

Goalie Mike Smith, for one, is pleased Doan returned for another season and likely more.

"There's not a better leader in this game or maybe all of sports," Smith said. "We're very fortunate to have a guy like him in the locker room. He's a special guy to have with so many prospects and so many young players coming up that can learn from a guy like him. He's obviously a great leader and I'm happy to have him back."

• Defenseman Michael Stone skated with Team B on Friday wearing a bright orange no-contact sweater. Stone, of course, suffered a major knee injury near the end of last season and is five-plus months into what's expected to be a six-month recovery.

• Center Zach Boychuk, the 14th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, skated with the Coyotes on Team A. Boychuk is in camp on a PTO - a professional tryout.

"We're just looking for some depth," General Manager John Chayka said. "He's skilled. We'll see what he can do. Hopefully he can create an issue for us (on the depth chart). That would be a good thing."

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