This could be bad news for the Carolina Hurricanes, who rely heavily on Cam Ward in net: Ward has been diagnosed with a third-degree MCL sprain and is expected to miss six to eight weeks of game action. Basically, that means much of the rest of the regular season, unless he heals at a superhuman rate.
Ward got hurt midway through the second period as the Hurricanes faced the Florida Panthers on March 2. His teammate Justin Faulk collided with him as Faulk worked Florida’s Jack Skille off-balance. He seemed alright and continued to play, but a little later on, he went down in obvious pain after putting his leg out to make a stop. He was on his back in the crease (pictured above), face looking pretty pained, and was attended to by trainers before backup Dan Ellis took off the cap and put on the mask. Ellis was actually supposed to have started that game, but then felt sick and couldn’t do it, so he assumed the backup role.
This season so far, he has a 3-2-0 record with a 2.53 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage.
While Ellis assumes the new role of starter, look for Justin Peters to be called up and back him up at this time. Peters, who usually minds the net for the AHL Charlotte Checkers, has a 22-12-1 record this season and has been called up in previous seasons for this very reason.
That Saturday game was a bad one in terms of injuries to goalies. Florida’s Jose Theodore left the game long before Ward–a little more than two minutes into the first period–with what looked like a leg injury that caused him some obvious pain too. He was favoring his left leg as he left the ice with assistance and he too could miss the rest of the season. They will now rely on Scott Clemmensen and Jacob Markstrom–well, except for that one stretch of time when Markstrom’s gear came to the arena after he did and so the team’s goaltending coach, Rob Tallas, dressed as a backup on Sunday.
Still, when Ward is healthy, he’s a workhouse goalie who has become so closely associated with the team that I saw some fans who aren’t extremely familiar with Carolina struggle to recall exactly who is his backup. He played 68 games last season and 17 this season, garnering a 9-6-1 record. The Hurricanes currently lead the Southeast with 25 points and are sitting pretty in third in the Eastern Conference. Can they hold on to that position without Ward?