Ward Passes Early Test
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Ward has won both games since his return, posting a 1.00 goals-against average and a .968 save percentage along the way. After taking a breather for the Canes’ most recent game in Ottawa Thursday night, he will again get the start tonight against the New Jersey Devils at the RBC Center.
”I was really, really impressed with the way he was able to get right to his game, and that’s no easy thing to do,” said coach Paul Maurice. “With any player, most injuries even when they come back it’s there mentally in their head that they don’t want to have a reoccurrence and sometimes it affects those first two or three games, so that was really good sign for him to block that out and compete the way he did.”
Besides benefiting from his strong performance on the ice, the team has also taken a great deal of comfort in the fact that Ward has not experienced any further problems with his back, which has been an issue on and off all season. Getting the goaltender healthy for next season remains a top priority, and the team remains cautious.
“If there had been any (problems), even in the slightest, we would have shut him right down, so there hasn’t been any reoccurrence,” said Maurice.
The Hurricanes have long needed every single point they could get in the standings, which made the shootout loss in Ottawa so damaging. The team earned five out of a possible six points in what would be a stellar road trip under any other circumstances, but the manner in which they dropped the final point, giving up a goal with 8 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, stings to be sure.
“If we win that game, I’m not concerned about the emotional level coming into this game at all, but it is a concern right now,” admitted Maurice. “We had some key players on the ice (for the tying goal), and to have that happen … we’ve got to find a way to wind that back up.”
If the Hurricanes have an advantage tonight, it’s that the Devils suffered a last-gasp loss very similar to Carolina’s on Friday while the Hurricanes enjoyed a day off. Starting goaltender Martin Brodeur took the loss for New Jersey, making it more likely that the Canes will face backup Yann Danis tonight. Of course, that is never a given, with Brodeur starting 71 of a possible 77 games this year.