While reports out of Thursday’s practice had injured starter Cam Ward “taking all the work” and skating somewhat as normal, he still has yet to play a single minute of game time since New Year’s Eve. In that time, Anton Khudobin has been the go-to guy with Justin Peters as the backup.
Peters has not been without fault, however, he has not been Robin to anyone’s Batman. He has his moments, and he has other moments. What backup goaltender doesn’t? Since head coach Kirk Muller announced Ward will “play a couple of games” with the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) in what appears to be a conditioning stint, Peters has a stay-of-execution of sorts. Upon Ward’s return, however, there’s still no reason Peters should pack up. There’s one immutable fact.
Ward is unreliable.
That’s a sad reality, but it’s one that needs accepting. In a results-dependent league such as the NHL, there is no room for assuming someone is going to be okay based on what’s stitched on the back of their sweater. Ward has not proven he can be relied upon as a starter since before the lockout. No matter how many casual fans see this as sacrilege, Ward simply has not proven his stability as a starting goaltender.
No matter what happens during Ward’s stint in Charlotte, Peters is going to hang around a little while longer. There’s not a single reason to think Ward is going to be a hundred percent just because he takes a few starts in the AHL. Upon his return, Muller would be wise to go ahead and carry three goalies no matter how unorthodox that practice might be. Every time someone declares Ward is back or Peters needs trading Ward either implodes or gets hurt.
The smart money is on Ward returning some time after the break for the 2014 Winter Olympics. There’s no point in doing a stop-and-start. Once he’s back, Peters shouldn’t take the nameplate off his locker just yet.