CALGARY - A sense of either elation or deprivation. It's always, without fail, one or the other every early-to-mid April in his line of work.
"This time of the season, when you're out of the playoffs,'' mused Calgary Flames goaltender Mike Smith on Saturday morning, "you can't wait for the season to be over.
"In this position, you can't wait for the playoffs to start.
"There's definitely a different feeling in this locker room this year.
"There's a buzz going around the room that we're going to be in the playoffs and playing for the Stanley Cup."
Saturday night will be spent tying up loose ends, specifically Game 82 of the always-gruelling first stage of a successful campaign, with the postseason-vanquished Edmonton Oilers in town paying a visit.
"It's just a final tune-up before the real thing happens,'' agreed Smith, going in search of a fifth win in his most recent six decisions against Connor McDavid and Co. "Obviously this game doesn't mean anything (in the grand scheme of things) but guys want to feel good going into the playoffs.
Video: "It's the final tune-up before the real thing."
"Against Edmonton, too. You want to beat these guys. We understand it's the Battle of Alberta but at the same time we understand the bigger picture.
"We'll have a couple guys back in the lineup who haven't played in a couple games now. We just want to have a solid outing tonight and finish the season off on the right note."
That would be after earning win No. 51 and collecting points 108 and 109.
Calgary's opening-round postseason series, versus either Colorado or Dallas, opens next week at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Which leaves a few days to study the ins and outs of the opponent while building themselves to an optimum level to gake full benefit of hard-won home-ice advantage in the opening two games.
"The energy's going to be high,'' cautioned Smith, who backstopped the then-Phoenix Coyotes to the conference final back in 2012, of the prep days immediately ahead. "You just don't want to waste it before Game One. There's a lot of hype going around the city, a lot of excitement, guys are pumped but you just don't want to play Game One before it happens.
"It's about staying relaxed and enjoying it, getting rested up and prepared properly.
"Then when Game One happens, you're ready to go."