Tracking the Storm

Goalies Faring Well in Ward's Absence

Tuesday, 03.9.2010 / 3:08 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Goalies Faring Well in Ward\'s Absence
During Cam Ward’s first extended spell on the sidelines, the Hurricanes couldn’t get their franchise goaltender healthy fast enough. This time, there’s far less of a rush.

Paul Branecky
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With Ward nursing a nasty leg laceration picked up in Columbus on Nov. 7, the Hurricanes posted a 3.49 goals-against average and .891 save percentage as a team over 13 games. In the most recent nine-game run without Ward, this time due to a back injury, goaltenders Manny Legace and Justin Peters have combined for a 1.66 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage – a significant improvement to say the least.

None of this is to suggest that the Hurricanes are better off without Ward, who is expected to resume skating this Thursday and eventually play again this season, but others have done a more than adequate job replacing him.

“Both of them have played very well,” said coach Paul Maurice of Legace and Peters, who have split the workload relatively evenly. “I think they’ve kind of accepted each other in the roles that they’re playing and are pulling for each other, and that’s important for the locker room.”

The numbers posted by the two goalies are equally impressive. Legace is a perfect 5-0-0 since Ward’s most recent injury with a 1.59 goals-against average, .941 save percentage and the team’s only shutout of the season. Meanwhile, Peters’ career stats (1.76 goals-against average, .943 save percentage) would have him in the Hall of Fame if he had played slightly more than four games.

As good as those two have been, there’s no denying that they benefit from a team that has been firing on all cylinders for some time now.

”The guys are playing way better in front of me,” said Legace, when asked to compare this stretch without Ward to the one earlier in the season. “At the beginning of the year there were a lot of new faces and it took a while to gel.”

That’s also somewhat true now, as Brian Pothier and Alex Picard have only played a few games in Hurricanes sweaters, while Jay Harrison has spent the bulk of the season in the American Hockey League. However, that hasn’t mattered quite as much as one might have predicted.

“You expect a little grace period and I didn’t expect it [to come together] that quick, but that just shows the professionalism of those guys,” said Legace.

“We’re still getting to know each other, and I’m just trying to communicate as much as I can,” said Peters. “They’ve done a really good job of communicating back to me so that we’re on the same page throughout the game.”

Despite their similar statistics, Legace and Peters are actually about as different as two people who play the same position can be. Legace is 37, is in his 11th NHL season, is small in stature and seems to define the term “wily veteran.”  Peters is 23, is getting his first taste of the major leagues, has good size for a goaltender and is a much quieter presence, even if that just comes with the territory of being a rookie.

Take their typical demeanors at practice, where Legace has become known for being extremely vocal with shooters. Whether they pick a corner or are thwarted by a well-timed flash of the glove, they’ll probably end up hearing something.

“Even the first three or four shots he’s hooting on guys, and they like that,” said Maurice.

Peters is much quieter, which is probably a good thing for this particular moment in his career, but that doesn’t mean he’s having any less fun.

“I’m just real excited about this opportunity and I’m just taking it one day at a time, because that’s the mentality you have to have with all the uncertainty,” he said.

Although Peters was referring to the uncertainty about this season and Ward’s eventual return, it’s fair to say that it extends beyond the end of this season for both goaltenders, whenever that may be. Legace, whose contract is up at the end of this season, is out to prove he can still be effective at the NHL level, which he has likely done after having to start this season in the AHL. With two full years in the minors and an appearance in this season’s AHL All-Star Game under his belt, Peters is trying to demonstrate that he’s ready to make the next step as Ward’s full-time understudy.

As has been the case for players like Brandon Sutter and Brett Carson that have seized similar opportunities, Legace and Peters are out to make the most of theirs. How they finish this season will go a long way towards determining how they start the next.

Notes: Maurice has named Legace as his starter for Wednesday's game in Washington, while Peters starts Thursday's home game against Pittsburgh.  There were a few slight changes to lines at Tuesday's practice, with Zach Boychuk and Sergei Samsonov switching lines and Carson moving up to play with Joni PitkanenFull lines can be found here.




1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54


E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72