While a lockout-shortened season lends itself to some level of unpredictability once the puck drops on January 19, the Phoenix Coyotes benefit from the simple fact that the team didn't endure much change in the offseason.
Outside of Ray Whitney's departure to the Dallas Stars in July, Phoenix's core pieces remain in tact heading into 2013, including 23-year-old left winger Mikkel Boedker.
During his first four seasons in the Valley, Boedker has been somewhat of an enigma for the Coyotes. After being selected eighth overall in the 2008 NHL Draft, the native of Denmark was expected to instantly contribute at the offensive end.
While Boedker possesses the speed and left-handed shot to be an effective goal scorer, he has yet to fully tap in to his projected potential.
For the first time in 2011-12, Boedker played a full season with Phoenix, yet still he failed to produce at a high level. However after a sub-par regular season (11 goals and 13 assists), the Coyotes forward came alive in the postseason, treating fans to a glimpse of his remarkable skills. In 16 playoff games, Boedker had four goals and four assists, including two overtime winners in Phoenix's first round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Although the lockout delayed Boedker's fifth season in the Valley, the Coyotes forward went to play in Finland's top league, SM-Liiga. In 29 games, Boedker led the league with 33 points (21 goals and 12 assists).
Now that he's returned to the United States, Boedker admits that he's glad to be back with the Coyotes and hopes to pick up right where he left off during the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"It was good to get back in system stuff," Boedker said after Monday's training session. "It's always nice to be a full team out on the ice. It was a good first day."
Because the team made only a few personnel changes over the summer, Boedker said the main focus going into Saturday night's season opener at Dallas is regaining the on-ice chemistry that made the team so successful in 2011-12.
"Getting the timing and getting up to speed will be really important," said Boedker. "Everybody is so professional here, that they know what to do. Coach Tippett and those guys really have it under control, and they have a good plan for us."
While Boedker more than made the most of his time overseas, he said conditioning won't be an issue going into the 48-game campaign, because several other teammates committed to play in Europe or skated together in Scottsdale.
"We're in good shape," said Boedker. "If we weren't we'd probably be having a longer practice. From the look out there, everyone is up to tempo."