LOS ANGELES, CA -- When the Flames were cruising up the Western Conference standings earlier this season, they went into every game with the same mindset.
They were focused on their own play, not tailoring their game to their opponents, and they were able to walk away with two points on a regular basis.
When mired in a slump, without even consciously thinking about it, teams may alter their game plan and try to adjust their play to that of their opponents.
When this happens, clubs can dig themselves deeper into the hole because they are forcing plays and are getting out of their usual rhythm.
Tonight, the Flames square off against the 2014 Stanley Cup Champions, the Los Angeles Kings. It would be easy to focus in on this aspect of the game or think about close they are to the Kings in the standings. There are plenty of narratives for tonight's game.
But Bob Hartley wants his team to avoid this kind of thinking and just zero in on their own game plan.
"When we were at the top of our game, we didn't adjust it to the other team. We were playing our game so our mindset is not going to change.
"We know who we're playing and that's a great challenge for us. But at the same time, let's bear down on one, two more chances on our side. Let's try to cut down on one or two bad reads on our side that opens the door to a great scoring chance."
Over the past eight games, the Flames have collected just a single point despite some strong play. They have outshot their opponents in many games and have been strong on both sides of the puck but whenever they give up a scoring chance, it seems to end up in the back of the net.
Rather than get discouraged about bad breaks or the outcome of the last eight games, the coaching staff are pushing their charges to concentrate on shoring up small details that have led to defensive breakdowns.
"It's just that there's bits and pieces of our games we're not as sharp as what we used to [be]," Hartley explained.
"You look at the way we played against Dallas, the way we played in Toronto, the way we played in Buffalo. I'm not ready to say we were bad or we were awful. Far from this. I thought we could have deserved a game but right now, it's one or two big mistakes a game that it seems like we just can't give them chances and suddenly the puck is in our net. It's a matter of getting out of that funk. We have the solutions, nobody else does."
Tonight's game marks the first outing in a new seven-game segment which features six games at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Kicking off this segment with a win, and heading into the holiday break with two points, would be a boon for the team's confidence when they start their six-game homestand on Dec. 27.
"All what we've done over the past seven games, let's flush this. There's lots of great things to learn about but result-wise, we have one point to show for. That's definitely not good enough.
"Plus we're coming back with a great schedule, all in front of our fans. That's going to be a chance for us to fall back on our feet and get going. But [tonight's] game, there's no way that we don't want to win this game. We need to win this game."