GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Phoenix Coyotes shut down shooting lanes, got some big saves from their goalies and played a game decided by one goal.
It was just a scrimmage, but looked an awful lot like a regular-season game.
Providing a free glimpse at this season's team, the Coyotes showed off their close-to-the-vest style to a few thousand fans during a scrimmage at Jobing.com Arena Wednesday night.
"It felt better than we thought maybe we were going to," Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle said. "If you look at that game, it was kind of the way we play: a 2-1 game, 1-1 going into the third. The pace was good, guys were skating well, guys felt good."
Playing in game-like conditions with officials and a running clock, the Coyotes weren't exactly in midseason form, but had a solid scrimmage filled with good defense, some tough saves by Mike Smith and Jason LaBarbera, and a couple of opportunistic goals.
OK, so there wasn't much hitting — they're teammates, after all — but it was a good start as the short preparation winds down before the lockout-shortened season starts this weekend.
"Those games, there are some good things, but what they lack is a real physical content," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "That's good because nobody's getting hurt, but not so good because it's not as real as it could be. That's the fine line you have to walk, but from a structure point of view from things we've been working on the last few days in practice, I thought it was solid."
The Coyotes built up a surge of momentum last season, luring fans back out to Jobing.com Arena while winning their first division title and reaching the Western Conference finals for the first time in 33 years as an NHL franchise.
The possibility of former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison buying the team — after three years of being run by the league — added to the excitement.
The 113-day NHL lockout all but ended the Coyotes' surge, putting hockey again on the backburner to all the other sports and activities available in the Valley of the Sun.
With the official end of the lockout last Saturday, Phoenix, like the rest of the league, had a short window to get ready for the start of the season.