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Ward focused on bringing stability to Flames as coach after controversy

'Keep it as normal as possible' following Peters' resignation for directing racial slur at former player

by Aaron Vickers / Independent Correspondent

CALGARY -- Geoff Ward was named interim coach of the Calgary Flames on Friday.

He replaces Bill Peters, who resigned earlier Friday -- three days after the NHL and Flames announced they were investigating a claim that Peters directed a racial slur at a player while coaching in the American Hockey League during the 2009-10 season.

"You want the guys to be able to come to the rink and just feeling good about being at the rink and feeling good about preparing to play hockey," said Ward, who was an associate coach with the Flames and guided them to a 3-2 overtime win at the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday with Peters absent. "If we can keep it as normal as possible, then as time goes on, everything looks after itself. For us, tomorrow is about coming to the rink preparing to play a hockey game, trying to make it as simple and as seamless as possible for the players.

"I can say I've never been in this circumstance taking over a team, but the reasoning doesn't matter. What's important is what you do once the moment happens and you need to step in. You need to make sure the team is prepared. In that regard, it's the same. But in the other regard, it's different."

Ward joined the Flames last season after spending three seasons with the New Jersey Devils as an assistant. He also was an assistant with the Boston Bruins from 2007-14, helping the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011.

Ward has experience as a head coach in the Ontario Hockey League, ECHL, American Hockey League and Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) in Germany.

"Geoff's an experienced guy," general manager Brad Treliving said. "He's been around. Part of what we're going through right now is some turbulence. I think stability is important.

"But Geoff is a solid man, solid coach, knows the players, good relationship with the players. ... When this thing happened, I felt Geoff was the right man."

The Flames will host the Ottawa Senators on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; SN360, CITY, SNW, TVAS, NHL.TV).

"Ward is kind of seamless," forward Matthew Tkachuk said. "For him, he's worked with the forwards and power play. He's overseeing everything now. It's not as crazy of an adjustment. It is nice being on the bench knowing he's back there and not someone completely new right now because he's used to us and we're used to him.

"He's good to be around. He's got that positive energy, and he's positive on the bench."

Calgary (12-12-4), which finished first in the Western Conference last season, was tied with the Vancouver Canucks and Vegas Golden Knights for third place in the Pacific Division entering Friday.

"We want to keep it simple," Ward said. "We're not going to implement huge changes. Our players, they know how to play the game. Right now, I think it's more important that collectively as a group we're coming together and we're mentally ready to play. As things go along, we can slowly, when we have practice time, implement any changes we deem we have to make or want to make. Right now, we want to keep it the same for the players as much as we possibly can because we have a lot of games coming up. The games are where we need to be good.

"We talked again about how important it is in the dressing room that that's our place and as a team and as a family we get to grow in there, so let's insulate ourselves from the noise on the outside and let's just focus on what we need to, and that's getting ready to play Ottawa."

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