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Ward Thriving with Heavy Workload

Friday, 03.20.2009 / 11:37 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Ward Thriving with Heavy Workload
Paul Maurice audio

When facing back-to-back games, the conventional wisdom is to split the workload between two goaltenders.

Paul Branecky
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That hasn’t necessarily been the case for the Hurricanes this season, and it may not be the case again this weekend. Cam Ward has had an awfully heavy workload – his 20th consecutive start tonight will tie his career high – and he hasn’t given the team any reason to do otherwise.

In his current run of starts, which dates all the way back to the February 7 game at Phoenix, Ward is 11-6-2 with a 2.45 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and two shutouts. Those numbers, combined with the fact that he hasn’t shown signs of slowing down when playing on consecutive nights this season, make him a good bet to play both tonight against the New York Islanders and tomorrow against the Washington Capitals.

“Clearly our past history says we’re going to play him,” said Hurricanes Coach Paul Maurice. “We’ll see how he’s feeling. He’s playing very well and is confident.”

For his part, Ward doesn’t feel like he’s being overworked.

“You say it’s my 20th start, but I never would have thought that,” said Ward. “It’s just another game for me and there’s no question I’m enjoying the opportunity.”

Unlike the Hurricanes, there are some questions about what the Islanders, who are also on the front end of back-to-back games, will do in goal. 

At the moment, Yann Danis and Peter Mannino are the two healthy goaltenders on the roster, as Rick DiPietro and Joey MacDonald are out injured. Mannino only has two games of NHL experience, but one of them was a 40-save performance in the Islanders’ 4-2 win against Chicago on Sunday.

Although the more seasoned of the two, Danis only has 29 games of NHL experience himself. He is 9-11-2 on the season with a 2.40 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.

Although still technically the NHL’s worst team with a record of 24-38-8, the Islanders are one of a handful of lower-echelon teams who are going on late-season runs now that the pressure is off (and just in time to face the Hurricanes twice before the season is over). Since the Hurricanes left Nassau Coliseum easy 6-2 winners on February 19, New York is 7-3-2, including victories over New Jersey, Montreal and Chicago.

“These two points will be the same, and they’re going to be just as tough for us to get,” said Maurice. “We’re not taking a deep breath here and relaxing because it’s the Islanders. They’ve played very well, they’ve earned their wins and they’re a good hockey team. The NHL teaches you on a nightly basis that teams lower in the standings win games.”

The goaltending injuries are nothing new for the Islanders, who are on pace to lead the NHL in man-games lost to injury and illness with 489 already this season, compared with 194 for the Hurricanes. Already with five players on injured reserve, they lost recent call-up Kurtis McLean to a leg injury during a pregame soccer warm-up. Sound familiar?

SCHEDULE

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Skinner 82 28 23 -2 51
V. Rask 80 21 27 -6 48
J. Staal 82 20 28 6 48
E. Lindholm 82 11 28 -23 39
J. Faulk 64 16 21 -22 37
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
N. Hanifin 79 4 18 -14 22
J. Slavin 63 2 18 1 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81