After almost four months of uncertainty, normalcy slowing is returning to the NHL, or, as normal as normal can get in a compacted, 48-game schedule.

But though many things now are known – the most important being the season starting Jan. 19 with training camps expected to open Sunday – there does remain a big unknown.

Namely, what will the quality of play be after a 113-day lockout and a six-day training camp that includes no preseason games?

"You know, it's really hard to say," Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said. "I think it depends on how intense a camp teams have. We know here we're going to have a good camp for a week. Shape-wise, we'll be fine. I think, maybe more, it will be a little bit of timing. It's hard to simulate an actual game in practice."

"Maybe a little bit [of time] to be in game shape," Rangers right wing Marian Gaborik added. "But, hopefully, it shouldn't take a long time for us to get into game shape. A couple of games here or there."

So though the first week or so of the season may be played at a fast speed, it will be understandable if the timing and execution are slightly off. Passes may not go tape to tape, shots may just miss the upper corner of the net. Hand-eye coordination is perfected over time.

In theory, there should be a historical comparison since the NHL played the same 48-game season in 1995 following a lockout. But that's ancient times when it comes to the NHL. Indeed, it's almost a different game.