Every team at this point in the season, we know what teams do and the other teams know also what we do. After this, it becomes a matter of execution. - Bob Hartley
GLENDALE, AZ -- To escape a three-game Pacific Division road trip with a pair of wins, the Calgary Flames have to make it through the Arizona Coyotes.
And while Flames coach Bob Hartley isn’t about to prep his troops differently than any other game, he’s making his team aware of what to expect out of Saturday’s opposition.
“We don’t prepare differently but we’re aware. We make our players aware of situations,” Hartley said. “This morning, we talked about it. This afternoon we’ll have 5-on-5 meetings with video clips demonstrating what they do and what are their tendencies. Every team at this point in the season, we know what teams do and the other teams know also what we do. After this, it becomes a matter of execution.”
The Flames welcomed Arizona just over two weeks ago to Scotiabank Saddledome, ushering out the Coyotes with a 5-3 win. That’s not where the attention lies, though.
It's on focus and preparation for Arizona, who sit sixth in the Pacific entering action Saturday.
“We’ve got to focus on our game more,” defenceman Deryk Engelland said. “Obviously the X’s and O’s, what they do and stuff like that. When we focus on our game right from the get-go, we play a lot better.
"Instead of worrying about what they’re going to do -- I think we did it against Anaheim and New Jersey, spotting them a couple of goals -- I think when we go into a game and worry about what we have to do and our game plan, it goes a lot better for us.”
DIAZ DIALED IN
Engelland is expected to pair with Raphael Diaz, who will take his second straight skate and 10th of the season Saturday when he draws into the lineup.
“He’s been great,” Engelland said. “Even off the ice, he’s a great guy. In the locker room, we don’t have a bad thing to say about the guy. He works hard every day. Great friend, great teammate. For him to come in, play well, does his job and he’s doing a great job.”
Diaz, who has played consecutive sets just twice this year, is excited to draw back in and contribute.
“I think that’s what you want as a player -- play as many games as you can,” said Diaz, who will play after Ladislav Smid returned to Calgary for personal reasons. “Especially if you can play one game after another, it helps you for the rhythm and stuff. It’s important that I keep in shape and be ready.
“They talk always to me. I know what’s going on. It helps of course. In practice and off ice as well, you have to work hard. You have to be in shape and as well, mentally ready.”
That hard work has come in practice.
The 28-year-old defenceman has been biding his time and properly preparing for each and every opportunity that comes his way.
His approach has impressed Hartley.
“He’s played very, very good,” Hartley said. “It’s very simple when it comes down to Raffi. Watch him work. Watch work in practice, in the gym. His attitude is great. When you stay fresh, you stay ready. This is a game that unfortunately injuries or bad performances open doors and Raffi always answers the bell in a positive way.”
He's answered the challenge the right way, too.
Inserted in Wednesday's 2-0 win over the San Jose Sharks, Diaz had two blocked shots and a takeaway. He’s hoping to duplicate the game in Glendale.
“I try to feel comfortable and good every game,” Diaz said. “Last game was good. I tried to be aggressive, to pinch, to be have a good gap. I think this is important as well, that you don’t give any room or space to the other guys. I think I have to do the same job tonight.”
RUNNING WITH RAMO
Coming off the shutout in San Jose, Karri Ramo is expected to start in his second straight game. It’ll mark the first time the 28-year-old has played in back-to-back contests this year.
He's earned it.
“I thought that he was in great control,” Hartley said. “I thought we could have played till the next morning and I don’t know if the Sharks would have been able to put one by him. It was the feeling that we had on the bench. The players were commenting on it.
“In between periods, we were saying, 'Wow'. He was catching pucks in such an easy manner. He was on his game. That’s what you need. This game at this level, or at any level, is pretty simple. You can analyze all what you want with analytics. If my goalie is better than other team’s goalie tonight, I think I have a real good chance of winning.”
It’ll be Ramo’s third start in four games. He’s ran his record to 5-2-1 with a 2.54 goals against average and .911 save percentage in nine appearances, which includes wins in his past three outings.
Another win could give him another opportunity to start.
“It’s always based on performance,” Hartley said. “It’s just like the forwards. We have a culture step that the guys are aware of how it’s going. You perform, you play. We’re in this business. We’re in the business of winning games.”
“My Alouettes got beat by the little Johnny Gaudreau from the Ti-Cats. That little Banksy there. Two punt return and got killed. I’m Stamps in the West, Alouettes in the East. Now there’s only one so I’m full-fledged Stamps. I go to many Stamps games. I gave a call to Huff to wish him luck.”
-Hartley on the Calgary Stampeders in the Grey Cup
Tonight's game will be broadcast on Hockey Night in Canada on CBC (TV) and Sportsnet 960 The FAN (radio) at 8:30 PM MT.
@NHLFlames will be live-tweeting the game and providing pre and post-game content. Fans can also follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #CGYvsPHX.