The Atlanta Flames have been termed red hot by punsters, usually with little justification, since they entered the National Hockey League in 1972. When the Flames close out the Washington Capitals' season at Capital Centre tonight at 7:30, however, they can wear that Isabel with justification.
Atlanta is the NHL's hottest team, having carried a club-record six-game winning streak into last night's home contest against Philadelphia. The Flames already had 86 points, highest in the team's history.
They will have home-ice advantage when they open the Stanley Cup playoffs Tuesday against either Detroit or Los Angeles. They are heavy favorites to capture a playoff series for the first time, having won only one Stanley Cup game while dropping one series to Philadelphia and two to Los Angeles.
Should the Flames get by the preliminary round, their likely quarterfinal opponent would be Bston, a matchup that would be extremely physical. The Flames are the biggest in the NHL, an asset that helped them thrash the Bruins, 6-3, in their last meeting.
Atlanta's leading scorer is right wing Bob MacMillan, a left-handed shooter obtained from St. Louis in the Phil Myre deal. MacMillan has adapted well to the off wing, recording 38 goals and 33 assists for 71 points.
A familiar face in Atlanta's flaming red uniform is center Bill Clement, the ex-Capital who will be trying for his first 50-point season in the NHL. Clement, an excellent defense center, has 20 goals, three shorthanded, and 29 assists.
Dan Bouchard, playing most of the game in the nets with Myre gone, has an excellent 278 goals-against mark.
Atlanta and Washington have not met since Dec. 10, when the Flames prevailed in the Omni, 5-1. Earlier, the teams tied here, 2-2, and the Capitals breezed at Atlanta, 6-2.
A number of Capitals will receive awards before tonight's game. Afterward, the players will return to the ice so fans may mingle and take pictures.