It's likely both the Arizona Coyotes and Calgary Flames will each miss the playoffs, though one is currently playing like it belongs.
The Coyotes seek to complete a perfect homestand Monday night with a chance to earn a season sweep of the struggling Flames.
Though a long shot to reach the postseason, the Coyotes' strong recent play would make them a tough out if they somehow get there. They've won six of eight overall and the first three of this four-game homestand after edging contending Philadelphia 2-1 on Saturday.
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I think we want to play like we're in the playoff games," goaltender Mike Smith said. "If we want to move forward and be a playoff team, I think we need to match that intensity and match that work ethic.''
Arizona (34-34-7) is still 10 points back of eighth-place Minnesota in the West with seven games remaining, with its current surge prompting thoughts of what might have been had Smith been healthy all season.
Smith has allowed six goals in winning four of five starts since returning from a three-month absence recovering from core muscle surgery. He was particularly sharp against Philadelphia, recording 34 saves and carrying a shutout into the final minute on a night the Coyotes were outshot 35-17.
"I thought he probably deserved a shutout but that's the way the game goes," coach Dave Tippett said. "We'll take the win and move on.''
Smith has yielded two goals or less in each outing since coming back. Calgary (31-38-6) has lost 21 straight when scoring two or fewer and has mustered one each in losing all four previous matchups with Arizona this season.
The Flames won all five 2014-15 meetings with the Coyotes en route to a surprising playoff appearance, but they won't be returning this year in large part due to shoddy defense and poor results away from home. They've surrendered a league-high 235 goals and own one of the NHL's worst road marks at 11-22-3.
Calgary has been outscored 15-5 over a three-game losing streak it brings into a four-game trip coach Bob Hartley hopes can serve as a springboard for next season.
"We have a goal for the remaining games that we never want to get outworked," he said. "We want to play smart, we want to play the game the right way because that's where we need to learn.
"We need to maintain that level that allows us to get better and to have a better season next year."
The Flames did show some fight in Saturday's 4-1 loss to Chicago, recording a 32-28 shot advantage and keeping the outcome in doubt until the Blackhawks scored two late empty-net goals.
Joni Ortio stopped 23 of 25 shots in his first appearance since March 18 and is expected to start again.
Shane Doan and Michael Stone had second-period goals for Arizona on Saturday before both exited in the third with injuries. Tippett said Doan's departure was precautionary but Stone, who's posted seven points in seven games, will likely miss time with a lower-body issue.
Doan has five points and Oliver Ekman-Larsson three goals and two assists in three games against Calgary this season. Brad Richardson scored twice in the teams' last meeting, a 4-1 win in Calgary on March 11.