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Photo Credit: Candice Ward/USA Today Sports

Flames are focusing on themselves

We’re just over one-third of the way through the 2019-20 National Hockey League season and the Calgary Flames – the defending top Western Conference regular season team – haven’t put a drubbing on any teams yet. That said, since the insertion of Geoff Ward as interim coach they’ve shown a lot of improvements.

Speaking to the media both before and after Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings, Ward emphasized the team’s focus on taking care of their own game and not worrying too much about the team across from them.

“One thing is there’s no easy teams in the NHL,” said Ward after morning skate. “Every opponent for us is a hard opponent. We’ve got to make sure that we’re playing our game. We’re not really focused on L.A., per say, as much as we’re focused on ourselves. We’re really pushing the fact that we’re playing some better hockey, our structure is coming the way we want it to be right now, so we’re focused on that. We feel if we can put our game on the ice, then we’ll be fine. But as far as focusing on some specific opponent, we’re not doing that.”

He elaborated on that a bit after noting that the Flames’ playoffs are going to start before everyone else’s – in relation to a question about goaltending and using both netminders. His elaboration focused on the team’s mindset regarding divisional opponents.

“We’re looking at it right now, not only the Western Conference, but one game at a time for us,” said Ward in the morning. “Every game for us is a big game. We’ve got to start getting some traction. We’ve got to start getting some points back so we can start climbing the standings, put ourselves back in the playoff chase. In that regard, we look at every game the same. We’re not really focusing on whether it’s Western Conference, whether it’s a divisional game, whether it’s in the East. For us, every game is important. For us, every game is an opportunity to get better, become more consistent in the way that we play, become more consistent with our confidence in the way that we play, with our game management. So for us, we’re taking it a game at a time here.”

Following the win, Wad praised his team’s progress and their ability to stick with the process. Answering a question related to Dillon Dube’s progression, he dropped a line that might signify his entire coaching philosophy at this point:

If you work hard and you play with structure, then you give your skill a chance to get into the hockey game.

The Flames are 15-12-4. They’re one point out of a wild card playoff spot and just five points behind the Edmonton Oilers for top spot in the Pacific Division.