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Glen Gulutzan has tailored his practice schedule to ensure his team is ready for tonight's game

by TORIE PETERSON @ToriePeterson /

The Flames are coming off of a five-day hiatus but rest is still a concern for head coach Glen Gulutzan ahead of tonight's match-up against the Arizona Coyotes.

He put his troops through an energetic skate yesterday afternoon but didn't push for his players to hit the ice this morning, holding an optional pre-game skate.

"The popular opinion, and what I think most teams have done coming out of breaks, is practice at 4:00 because that's when you can practice. And practice in the morning and play at 7:00," he explained.

"We tried to be real short today, it was an optional so not all guys went. You come out of four-day break and you skate guys three times in 27 hours … if I was putting you on program and you hadn't worked out for awhile and I made you work out three times in 27 hours, I'm wondering what your energy is going to be like at 7:00.

"We tried to look at a little different. We know the records of teams coming out of these breaks so we just have to make sure we're mentally ready and we tried to get the mental and physical part down."

With many teams stumbling out of the gates after their bye-week, Gulutzan's not only pushing for the optimal amount of physical rest but also a mental reboot ahead of the stretch drive.

"We tried to get these guys right back into the regular routine. We showed clips … our clips this morning, 20 of them, were basically reinforcing our game - tough at the net, battles - things that you have to mentally engage in.

"When you're playing every night, it just comes second nature. When you stop and start again, you've got to get those cylinders fired up. So we made sure we touched on every little area of our game."

The message was well-received by the team, who are heading into this evening's contest feeling mentally recharged after their brief break away from the rink.

"It's really day-by-day for us," Chad Johnson said of the team's mindset. "It's knowing that every game is important, no matter who you're playing - you have to bring your best.

"We know where we are in the standings. But that's not something we're focused on during the game - we're focused on the process of getting wins. I think for us, knowing that we can play with any team and we can have success against any team is big for us."

Sitting just outside a Western Conference Wildcard berth, the Flames are acutely aware of how important it is to head into the final stretch of games on the right foot. They are aiming on keeping the momentum going from their last four games, which saw them go 3-1-0 against the likes of the Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, and Pittsburgh Penguins.

"We went over it as a team. We've seen the results from past breaks and we worked pretty hard yesterday, trying to get that little break out of the way. We're going to get after it tonight," Johnny Gaudreau said.

"Our start needs to be good - be smart with the puck for the first 10, 15, 20 minutes and not try to do too much, play simple and play the way we've been playing right before the break. I think we just go from there."

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