CALGARY - Normally, the Calgary Flames practice at 11 a.m.
However, having had a day off on Tuesday and facing a three-hour flight to Phoenix Wednesday, coach Brent Sutter had his charges on the Saddledome ice a little earlier than usual, 10 a.m.
"The bus comes at 7:45," said Olli Jokinen, refering to the school bus which takes his daughters. "A perfect time would be 9 a.m."
However, there was certainly a different feel to the session for the club riding a four-game losing skid heading into Thursday's clash with the Phoenix Coyotes (7 p.m., Sportsnet West).
Head coach Brent Sutter repeatedly implored his players to increase their tempo and practice at game intensity, and there was no joking around on the ice.
"We need to practice the way we want to play, and a big part of that is emotion. I want us to have that. I want us to play with that," Sutter explained. "It's all about having an aggressive mindset, and that gets back to what we've been talking about: going after it and grab it.
"We all understand and know what transpired here the last four games, not what we wanted as far as points-wise and the standards we want to play at. It's good to refocus and get back to big games here."
With 19 games remaining, the Flames sit 11th in the Western Conference standings. When their homestand started, they sat eighth.
They're certainly not done and dusted from playoff contention, but the time has come to put together strings of wins, and Sutter had no problems reminding his charges what is missing from their game.
"I watched the game (Tuesday) night between Philadelphia and San Jose. It was a 1-0 hockey game, and it was a complete war. Everything in the offensive zone was directed to the net, and everyone was crashing the net. It didn't matter whether it was in one zone or the other," Sutter explained. "This time of year, it's not so much about Xs and Os... It's a nuts and bolts game now. There's going to be scrums after whistles, you've got to win the battles. You've got to go nose to nose.
"In the last few games, we haven't been where we need to be."
But Sutter made no bones about the fact he expects to see that urgency when they face the Phoenix Coyotes, the league's best team in Februrary, and the hard-charging Anaheim Ducks.
"It's an important part of what he brings as a coach, but it can't just be him," forward Michael Cammalleri said. "The coach can show you the way but it has to come from this room. The intensity needs to come from us."
Not in Calgary's favour is the recent history in those arenas.
The Flames have lost five straight road games versus the Coyotes and haven't won in Anaheim since 2004, which is the lone victory there since Jan. 13, 1999.
"We've played good hockey there the last few trips. Hopefully, some hard work can get us over the hump, and we can come out of there with some points," said defenceman Cory Sarich when those runs of futility were mentioned.
To which Cammalleri added: "I didn't think of it until this second. I always quote an old coach of mine, Red Berenson from Michigan. 'Once you get there, there are two nets, one centre ice line on one sheet of ice. It doesn't change.' "