It’s not often Carolina Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller feels the need to address the media the morning before a game. Usually he just lets the morning skate do the talking, answers a few questions here and there and that’s that.
Monday morning, Muller elected not to hold a formal morning skate and then addressed the media — which was strangely covered via Twitter.
If all this seems odd, that’s understandable. If it seems completely normal to you however, you’ve more than likely been following the crazy soap opera that is Carolina’s lineup card these days. The injury issue seems to be lifting, though the fog of the goaltending situation remains. All things being considered, for Muller to address the media regarding Monday night’s matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets, isn’t that weird and actually somewhat warranted?
In what should surprise nobody, Muller confirmed Jay Harrison will be out of the lineup and is listed day-to-day after leaving Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning early with a non-specific injury. This press conference was not about Harrison though. What was on the tip of everyone’s tongue with their morning cheese biscuit was ‘who is starting in net?’ Muller may have cleared it all up when the answer ended up being Justin Peters as the “expected” starter.
Peters can’t seem to do wrong lately. He’s been bumped to the top of nearly every permutation of the Hurricanes’ depth chart in the known universe. His .930 saves percentage not only leads the team, but is the 13th best in the NHL. With Peters’ stock on the rise, Muller has almost no choice to put the kid out there. No matter how much regular starter Cam Ward pouts and sulks about it, he’s going to do so from the bench and has nobody to blame but himself.
Ward’s issues have gone past ‘bad luck’ and moved into the realm of ‘something actually being wrong.’ There is absolutely nothing out-of-bounds with Ward taking a seat for a handful of games and only getting the nod sparingly. Let him see what the backseat of the station wagon looks like again, since the last time he was there it was behind Martin Gerber. If his time on the bench snaps Ward out of it, great. If not, then Peters is in there and that’s fine with everyone in red.
Of course, the unsolved mystery is Anton Khudobin. Reports had he and Ward skating Monday morning on their own. Though still listed as the one guy on injured reserve, the word is he will return any day now. This is a nail-biter because nobody has any idea if he’ll have a spot to come back to.
Looking at Columbus, there’s not a lot of reason to think Carolina can’t have at least a solid outing. Saturday in Tampa Bay — though a loss — was a good sign that things are getting to where they need to be. Look for the top line to try and prove a few things as well as Jeff Skinner trying to continue his unhinged assault on anything with pads and a mask.
Should Peters end up the actual starter, the timer is ticking on Khudobin’s remaining time in Carolina.