On Jan. 13, 2012, the Phoenix Coyotes sat in 11th place in their conference with a 20-17-7 record. While Dave Tippett's squad ultimately went on an impressive run over the final 38 games of the regular season en route to a Western Conference Finals appearance, they will not have that same luxury in 2013.
Because of a lockout-shortened season, the Coyotes cannot afford to get off to a sluggish start. After all, they only have 48 games to make an impression.
"Usually, you can kind of creep your way into the season with some exhibition games and a longer camp, but it is what it is," goaltender Mike Smith said Sunday. "We have to be ready from the drop of the puck when the season starts on Saturday."
Phoenix opens on the road next Saturday against former Coyote Ray Whitney and the Dallas Stars, before coming home the following night to host the Chicago Blackhawks at Jobing.com Arena.
With the Coyotes scheduled to play 48 games in a condensed period of time, including seven back-to-back contests, the team recognizes how imperative it is to get the kinks and rust out during their one-week training camp.
"There's going to be a lot of hockey games all wrapped in a short season," said Smith. "There's no excuse for not being ready, because we have had four months to get ready for the season. We're very excited."
While expectations will be elevated this season given the Coyotes' recent run of success, Smith said he and his teammates are just thrilled to be back on the ice playing the game they love.
"There's some energy in the air now that the season's back," said Smith. "Everyone's getting geared up for a short camp and an early start to the season.
"I say early, but really it's been a long time coming."