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How many times have fans heard their respective teams --coaches and players -- recite the phrase: It's a marathon, not a sprint.

It's cliché and may very well ring true, unless of course you're talking about the upcoming lockout-shortened hockey season.

"Everybody wants to come out of the gate and do well," Phoenix Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said. "I think getting out to a good start and consistency is going to be imperative if you're going to make the playoffs."

The NHL is expected to announce soon a 48-game season, squeezed into about four months.

Now while that may be a headache for teams, it may just have the opposite affect for fans.

"You know what," Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said, "games are exciting when mistakes are made. Now, hopefully you don't make that many mistakes. But it will make for great hockey and exciting hockey and that's where I think where we'll get our fans back."

With the season shortened, teams will play only games against opponents within their own conference. For the Coyotes, that means a heavy dose of Pacific Division rivals Anaheim, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Jose.

"When you have your division games and your conference games, I mean, no games outside of it, it just brings that much more importance to it," Tippett said. "That's why I think you're going to see some great hockey because it's going to be like a mini playoff series right through."

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