The Calgary Flames continue to win games and not be happy about it.
Oh sure, the Flames (29-13-4) are ecstatic to be riding a four-game winning streak and sit atop the Western Conference, but it's no secret they're not playing great hockey lately, including their 4-3 win over the Florida Panthers on Friday night.
Heading into Sunday night's home clash with the Arizona Coyotes -- the third instalment in a five-game homestand -- the Flames are well aware their fortunes will eventually turn if they don't start playing a more complete game.
"The most important thing we can take away from the last couple of games is that winning teams are able to find ways to win even when not playing your best," said forward Derek Ryan. "The fact we've been able to do that is great. The fact that we haven't played our best, isn't."
Bad habits are creeping into the Flames' game. They've been guilty of sluggish starts, relying on their goaltending to hold the fort until strong offensive talent cues up comebacks. Sure, it's working lately -- they're 7-1-1 in last nine outings -- but everyone is well aware a losing skid could be just around the corner if things don't change.
"We have to realize teams are coming in to play us hard," Captain Mark Giordano told the team's website. "Florida (on Friday), fighting for their playoff lives, showed way more desperation in the first period than we did. In the second and third we found that desperation level we needed. But it's far from ideal, waiting until you're down 2-0 to do it."
In the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights, the Flames have a couple of surging teams chasing them down in the Pacific Division standings, but with games against Arizona, Buffalo, Detroit, Edmonton and Carolina on the docket, they have a favorable schedule.
"These next few games set you up," Giordano said. "You want to create separation first and foremost from the playoff line. In our division, there are three teams together, right there, battling. We want to pile up as many points as possible.
"You want to go into that (All-Star) break feeling good about the game, about yourself, about the team and the way it's headed. That allows you to get good rest, to feel rejuvenated for the final stretch."
The Coyotes (20-21-3) arrive on the heels of a 3-2 win in Edmonton on Saturday night in which rookie Conor Garland scored twice -- including one that went off his face and left him a bloody mess.
The Coyotes, who have won three straight games, are trying to remain in the playoff race, but it's no easy task with their injury woes. They're missing top goalie Antti Raanta, defenseman Jason Demers and forwards Christian Dvorak, Michael Grabner, Nick Schmaltz and top goal-scorer Brad Richardson. Still, they've opened a trip with wins over divisional foes Vancouver and Edmonton.
"We know where we're at in the standings," said defenseman Alex Goligoski. "We've got to keep getting points and keep chipping away at it. Every game's important, but division games especially."
Newest Coyote, Jordan Weal, made his team debut Saturday in Edmonton after being acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers.
"It was a shock at first, then I just got really excited the more and more I thought about it. Coming to a team like this, it's got so much speed and skill. When we played them a couple months ago, I could really tell it's a young group moving forward," Weal said.
--Field Level Media