Given the way the Calgary Flames (26-20-11) have played against non-playoff teams this season, some of the headlines are probably already half typed on some writers' laptops.
Coyote Ugly. Disaster in the Desert. For Pucks Sakes. (Insert your own attempt here).
It's been that maddening so far this season, with the Flames coming off yet another puzzling performance in a 4-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. That's not to say any NHL team can't beat another on any given night, but the frequency at which the Flames play more poorly against teams in the lower half of the standings is almost mind-boggling. They have a point percentage above .600 against playoff contenders, but are just .500 against the bottom feeders.
Against the Arizona Coyotes (20-28-9) at Mullett Arena on Wednesday, they get a bit of both. The Coyotes have been hot and are very capable of beating anyone using their youthful speed and skill.
"Every game now is extremely important, starting today against a team that is red hot," said Calgary Flames defenceman Chris Tanev, who will play his 700th game on Wednesday. "I think they have points in nine games in a row. They are a fast team, a skilled team and obviously they are playing extremely well here.
"We just worry about tonight and then move forward."
The Flames can't look too far ahead. They might not want to. Next up is a date in Las Vegas, where they've never won, then a visit to Nazem Kadri's old haunt to play the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. Oh, then they get to host the Boston Bruins upon their return to the Saddledome, where they've had trouble in games after returning from the road.
The Flames have to take on the must-win mindset, says assistant coach Ryan Huska.
"We have a lot of guys that have been around and done that before. They know where we're at. We're not in position we want to be sitting at right now," Huska said. "We as a staff approach it as a must win for sure and I know that players are that way as well. When you see them walking around the room and the conversations you hear, they change as the season goes on.
"Anticipating them to be really good for us tonight."
Nothing less than really good will do.
The Coyotes have won three of their last four and have points in 11 points of 14 in the month of February, including points in nine straight games.
They beat former Calgary Flames star Johnny Gaudreau's Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 in overtime on Sunday.
Dan Vladar gets the start in goal for a Flames team that desperately needs more saves.
Calgary Flames projected lineup
Dillon Dube – Elias Lindholm – Tyler Toffoli
Jakob Pelletier – Nazem Kadri – Jonathan Huberdeau
Andrew Mangiapane – Mikael Backlund – Blake Coleman
Milan Lucic – Trevor Lewis – Walker Duehr
Noah Hanifin – Rasmus Andersson
MacKenzie Weegar – Chris Tanev
Nikita Zadorov – Dennis Gilbert
Arizona Coyotes projected lineup
Clayton Keller – Barrett Hayton – Nick Schmaltz
Matias Maccelli – Nick Bjugstad – Lawson Crouse
Nick Ritchie – Travis Boyd – Christian Fischer
Liam O'Brien – Jack McBain – Victor Soderstrom
Juuso Valimaki – Shayne Gostisbehere
Patrik Nemeth – J.J. Moser
Troy Stecher – Josh Brown