Flames-Coyotes Preview

A season after winning 19 of 50 games against Western Conference opponents, the Calgary Flames are slowly convincing themselves and others they can compete in what's widely considered the superior side of the standings.

The next step comes Saturday night in Arizona, where the Flames will try to establish some road success after five seasons of struggles in visits to the Coyotes.

Calgary (14-8-2) is gaining plenty of confidence from games such as Wednesday's 2-0 win in San Jose, which came a night after a 3-2 loss at Anaheim and extended the Flames' season-long run of not having suffered consecutive regulation losses. They're 8-4-0 against the West.

"Character," coach Bob Hartley told the team's official website. "It starts with our captain (Mark Giordano). We have lots of great players. They understand our situation. We want to make it to the (Stanley Cup playoffs) and we understand the Western Conference, it's a real tough conference. But at the same time, every time we get two points we're believing more and more. It's fun to push those guys."

Jiri Hudler scored twice and has four goals and an assist in his last three games. He has 10 in 23 games this season after needing 117 games to score 27 goals in his first two seasons in Calgary.

Giordano, meanwhile, leads the team with 24 points in 24 games, more than doubling the defenseman's career production of 0.47 points per game.

With similar contributions from players such as defenseman T.J. Brodie and rookie forward Johnny Gaudreau, the Flames have established themselves as an offensive force in the league with 3.00 goals per game a season after finishing 23rd (2.46).

In goal, Karri Ramo shut out the Sharks with a 32-save effort for his best game of the season.

"I think everybody here in the room knows that if we just keep playing our game we're going to win many games," Ramo said. "In the long run, we don't have to panic. Just play our game and focus on our own game."

Jonas Hiller has handled the bulk of the load, but he's allowed at least three goals in each game of a 2-3-0 stretch, including a 5-3 home win over Arizona (9-11-3) on Nov. 13.

Hiller has a 1.97 goals-against average over a 10-0-1 span against the Coyotes, but 10 of those starts came with Anaheim.

In the meeting earlier this month, Giordano scored - his seventh point in his last six games against Arizona.

In Phoenix, however, the Coyotes have won four straight over the Flames and nine of 10.

They might not be entering with quite that level of confidence after Tuesday's 4-3 overtime loss to Colorado gave them a fourth straight home defeat. Arizona led 3-0 just 10:53 into the game.

"It doesn't feel good leaving points out there," defenseman Michael Stone told the team's official website. "We had a good handle on the game and we let it get away."

Stone and Antoine Vermette had a goal and an assist each, but the Coyotes fell to 0 for 20 on power plays in their last five home games.

Mike Smith made 31 saves but saw his losing streak grow to 0-5-2 with a 3.00 GAA, though that's an improvement from the 3.44 mark that accompanied his 4-6-0 start. At home against Calgary, Smith is 4-1-0 with a 1.59 GAA.

The teams play Tuesday in Calgary with the Coyotes first making a stop in Edmonton.

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