While it was a game Carolina probably should have won, this was not the reason for the simultaneous facepalm executed by fans. It was the horrifically timed injuries to starting goaltender, Cam Ward and team points leader, Jeff Skinner.
Early in the first period, Ward went down in a butterfly, was slow to get up–and the injury was obvious. At the next whistle, Ward skated to the bench, and eventually into the dressing room.
For a team already dealing with the injury to backup goaltender, Anton Khudobin, Ward going down was the absolute worst-case scenario imaginable. Head coach Kirk Muller had no choice but to bring in the fill-in backup, Justin Peters.
Peters, while an accomplished AHL goalie with the Charlotte Checkers, is still not NHL caliber, and allowed two goals in the first period. While Carolina was able to regroup and get defense in front of the net, the team never fully recovered –despite a stunner on the power play in the second from Alexander Semin.
As if the loss of Ward wasn’t enough, Skinner’s absence from the bench was painfully obvious as the third period began. Reports finally came out he suffered an upper body injury and was also done for the night.
Yet, somehow … it managed to get worse.
The team had reported from the locker room that Ward’s lower body injury would have him out for three to four weeks, and they had already recalled Mike Murphy from Charlotte.
Put all of this together and you have a frightening picture. With key players still not officially activated from reserve, Carolina must now deal with the loss of their franchise goaltender and current points leader, then face the powerhouse that is the Colorado Avalanche Friday night, with a goaltending corps from the AHL.
There are still zero guarantees on Tim Gleason or Elias Lindholm returning Friday night. Even if they are active in Denver, it’s their first game off an injury and ice time will be scarce for both.
While there’s never a good time for any players to be injured, this only furthers the catastrophe injuries have caused this team. While somehow finding a way to maintain their second place spot in the Metropolitan Division, time waits for no team.
Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford has some tough decisions to make first thing Friday morning. Does he pick up a phone and start talking trades? Track record says he won’t, but one never knows.
The only thing known for sure, is that what was looking like a great October — has turned into a sick nightmare.