RALEIGH, NC -- The NHL's 82-game schedule is a marathon, not a sprint.
It can be easy to get caught up in entirety of it all, focusing on points in the much-distant future and long-term goals.
The Flames, however, have honed in on short-term objectives.
The team has broken up the season into seven-game segments in an effort to keep everyone focused on the hurdles directly in front of them.
"We're 1-1 in our third segment," Bob Hartley explained. "What we're trying to do, we're trying to build up a fake playoff round if we want. At the same time, we have a target of how many points we want, we're looking at goals against and goals for.
"It keeps the guys focused on short-term goals."
Thus far, the Flames have gone 4-3-0 and 4-1-2 in their first two segments.
In addition to keeping track of the seven-game segments, the coaching staff adds in short-term goals for road trips and homestands.
"On top of the seven-games, we came on a five-game road trip and we told the guys we want to be over .500, which we are," Hartley said. "But now we have a chance to be 4-1. A lot of emphasis on tomorrow's game is that we can get back on the plane with a 4-1 record, which would be real, real good."
Another factor in Hartley's efforts to keep his crew in the here-and-now is offering up rewards throughout the course of the segments. Today, the team had an optional skate as a reward for pulling out a win at the BB&T Center.
"It's such a long season that you need to put little candies here and there," the bench boss smiled. "It's all part of motivation and sometimes, just causing a reaction. Someone stepping up and saying, 'Hey, I'm tired of practicing.' Sometimes, it creates a spark.
"Yesteday, it worked. I don't know how much the optional practice had to play in it but sometimes, it's a little mental game, a mind game you're playing."
Tomorrow's game begins at 5:00 PM MT. Sportsnet West (TV) and Sportsnet 960 The FAN (radio) will carry the broadcast.