With the Bill Peters saga finally over -- he resigned as the coach of the Calgary Flames on Friday morning after nearly four days of upheaval -- the goal for the team is simple: Go forward.
Peters' departure came amid fallout from news that he had not only physically abused players a couple of seasons ago while guiding the Carolina Hurricanes, but also made racist comments at players, namely Nigerian-born forward Akim Aliu, while coaching in the minors. Geoff Ward moved from associate coach to interim head coach and has an obvious mandate.
"Our focus right now is preparing to play the Ottawa Senators. All the other stuff has to stay in the background," Ward said.
The task, though, goes beyond keeping his players focused in the aftermath of a story that has rocked the NHL. It's also to guide a club that has lost seven of nine games (2-6-1) back to a playoff spot.
The Flames have looked nothing like the team that finished atop the Western Conference in the 2018-19 regular season.
"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," forward Milan Lucic said. "We're the only ones that can get us out of a rough time like this."
The clash with Ottawa will be Ward's second in charge of the Flames bench. He took the helm for Wednesday's 3-2 overtime victory over the Buffalo Sabres. If the Flames truly want to put the specter behind them, they must rack up a few more victories, and they have a golden opportunity as Saturday's game begins a stretch of seven of nine at home.
"We've got to get on a roll here. We need to get going," captain Mark Giordano said.
The Senators arrive in Calgary on a three-game skid, with their latest defeat a 7-2 thumping at the hands of the Minnesota Wild on Friday to kick off a five-game road trip. Ottawa actually led 2-1 just past the midway point but fell apart over the final 31 minutes.
"This isn't indicative of the way we play," Senators coach D.J. Smith said. "We glided too much. We're a team that works and skates, and we didn't do that. We probably got what we deserved."
"We didn't have a lot of great things going in the lineup, didn't have a lot of chemistry," Smith said. "The one thing we've got to do is put our work before anything else. This team has worked all year, so I suspect this team will come to work (in Calgary)."
With Craig Anderson out of action due to injury, Smith will turn to Marcus Hogberg in goal. Hogberg played in four games last season, posting a 0-2-1 record, but has yet to see action this season.
"He's a guy we think can be here in the future, so we want to get a look at him. It's an opportunity, and he'll get a chance (on Saturday)," Smith said.
--Field Level Media