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'WE NEED TO GET GOING'

New interim head coach Geoff Ward said the team's focus now has to be on Senators and starting to pile up some wins

by GEORGE JOHNSON @NHLFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Driver picks the music, right?

"Sure wasn't me that picked the songs,'' confessed Geoff Ward, in his first official day as the interim coach of the Flames.

"I mean, Tiny Dancer really doesn't rev me up for practice."

Shortly on the heels of the announcement of head coach Bill Peters' resignation Firday morning, the team took to the Scotiabank Saddledome ice for an 11 a.m. skate in advance of Saturday's visit by the Ottawa Senators (5 p.m., click here for tickets)

Something new, a playlist of tunes greeted the players' arrival for work.

"Razzie, Rasmus Andersson, chose the songs so if you want to ask somebody about it, ask him," said Ward.

"We just felt it was a way to loosen a little bit of the day. We came in this morning, the players had a meeting with Tre, and we didn't want that hanging over practice.

"Just a gimmick to loosen the mood up, get the guys moving and their minds on practice."

A light touch was surely welcome, given the circumstances.

"It's been a long three or four days here,'' admitted Ward. "Kinda moving along a moment at a time, a day at a time.\

"I came to the rink today just knowing I was going to run practice. 

"So it really hasn't sunk in yet.

"We're not going to implement huge changes. Our players know how to play the game. Right now, I think it's so important that collectively we come together as a group. As things go along, we can slowly implement any changes we think we should make or want to make.

"Right now we want to keep it the same for the players as such as we can.

"Our focus right now is preparing to play the Ottawa Senators tomorrow. All the other stuff has to stay in the background."

This unique situation - taking over the reins 28 games into a season, and under difficult circumstances - certainly isn't the scenario Ward envisioned for his first opportunity at being an NHL coaching point man.

"Bill's a friend,'' he said. "He's been a good person to me and a mentor, as well. I've learned a lot of things from Bill.

"This is tough for everybody. As I said in Buffalo, I think giving people their space on all sides is important."

 

Video: "It was just a gimmick to loosen the mood up"

 

No one, least of all Ward, knows for certain how the coaching puzzle will eventually shake down. What he is determined to do is at this moment help push the enterprise forward.

"Obviously I've enjoyed some great experiences with him over the years,'' said Flames' winger Milan Lucic, a Stanley Cup winner alongside Ward in 2011 with the Boston Bruins. "I think he's learned a lot from the coaches he's worked with over the years - Claude (Julien), (John) Hynes and with Billy as well.

"He's a good coach and a caring person.

"I'm excited for him for this opportunity. Everyone waits for their chance and we all get our chances in different ways.

"This is his. It's under tough circumstances but we're all behind him.

"I think it's gonna start with the practice and I think if you look at the two practices he's run there's a lot of energy in them and game-situational things.

"I think he's going to do a great job of bringing us together as a team, as a family, and everybody in here knows that right now we need to be there for each other. 

"We're the only ones that can get us out of a rough time like this."

The familiarity in the changeover makes things easier.

"Any tweaks he wants to make, there won't be huge changes to the way we play,'' agreed skipper Mark Giordano.

"He's been running obviously our powerplay for the last two years. He's really easy to communicate with. Everything from his meetings and his video is really clear.

"We've got to get on a roll here. We need to get going."

Yes, there is road to make up in pursuit of the playoffs and with seven of the next nine fixtures at the 'Dome there's no time like the present.

"We know where we're at and we know we need to climb,'' acknowledged assistant coach Martin Gelinas. "We also know the foundation is there. We've got a lot of building blocks in place. Geoff's going to put his twist on things.

"This has been challenging, tough on everyone. But we've got to rise above it all and get going.

"Geoff's a very Xs and Os coach. But he's very much aabout accountability, about making people better, very much about the group.

"The team building we had, going out to Kananaskis? That was his idea. He really stresses that togetherness, that family, you need to be successful in this business."

That camaraderie, the sense of unity, is what Ward will be staring in the early stages of this shift in command.

"We talked again about the importance of the dressing room; that's our place,'' he reiterated. "So as a team, as a family, let's insulate ourselves from the noise on the outside and focus on what we need to.

"I give a lot of credit to the players, how they're dealing with and also to the staff. Our trainers, our medical people, assistant coaches.

"Everyone's done a fantastic job, I think, of in the last few days creating an environment that allows them to move forward with what they do for a living and that's play hockey.

"Anything we can do to build normalcy right now, for ourselves and our players, is a good thing."

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