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Backup Goalie Race Still Tight

Wednesday, 05.26.2010 / 11:15 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Backup Goalie Race Still Tight
For two players who have very little in common outside of the position they play, the choice between Manny Legace and Justin Peters as the Hurricanes’ backup goaltender has proven to be a difficult one.

Paul Branecky
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General Manager Jim Rutherford said recently that he is no closer to making that call now than he was at the end of the season. The topic is expected to be an important one at next week’s scouting meetings.

”We’re going to have to make a decision on the goalie,” said Rutherford. “There are a lot of factors that we have to weigh in, but it will be one of those two guys and we’ll have to decide soon.”

Before getting to their distinctions, it’s important to note one key similarity that has kept either player from emerging as a clear favorite – performance.  The statistics are nearly identical. Legace sports a 2.81 goals-against average to Peters’ 2.83, with save percentage telling the same story (Legace’s .907 vs. Peters’ .905).

Since analyzing the numbers doesn’t help, other factors come into play. Although the two goaltenders will never be confused for each other in terms of playing style, stature or personality, the main differences lie with age and experience. Legace, at 37 and at least nearing the end of his career, has amassed 365 games over a 10-year NHL stint as both a starter and a backup. Peters, on the other hand, is just getting started. He’ll only be 24 when the Hurricanes reconvene for training camp and made his debut just last season, playing nine games.

The first thing for the Hurricanes to consider will be the projected workload for next season’s backup. If the team expects entrenched starter Cam Ward to flirt with 70 games as he did in 2007-08 and 2008-09, having a developing player in Peters start around 12 times with an occasional relief appearance would not be ideal, making Legace the better option. Also, if Ward were to experience further injury issues, not necessarily with his back but in general, Legace would provide a long-term veteran solution.

However, Peters’ performance this past season cannot be ignored. In addition to earning an American Hockey League All-Star nod, Peters proved for the first time that he could be an effective NHL goalie at least in the short term, posting a 6-3-0 record with wins over offensive-minded Pittsburgh and Washington clubs.  Another full season at the AHL level wouldn’t hurt him by any means, but with 148 career appearances with Albany over the last four seasons, the last of which produced elite-level work, he could very well be ready to take the next step.

“It’s a matter of whether we want to go with a veteran guy and have Justin play more in Charlotte, or whether we feel it’s better to keep Justin moving forward,” said Rutherford.

If a consensus still cannot be reached after weighing the pros and cons, contracts could then come into play. Regardless of whether he starts the year in Raleigh or Charlotte, Peters will need to be re-signed as a restricted free agent. The same cannot be said of Legace, an unrestricted free agent who would move on to another team, perhaps in Russia, if the backup job goes to Peters. 

A new deal for Legace would likely be very similar to the inexpensive one-year, two-way deal he signed last season, which doesn’t present a large risk. However, when combined with the organizational logjam it would create with Peters, Justin Pogge and Mike Murphy all fighting for time in the AHL – one could then be loaned to another club outside of the Hurricanes’ sphere of influence – it may prove to be inconvenient.

”I don’t think (contracts) will be the determining factor, but they will factor into it,” said Rutherford.

Along with plans for the draft and the statuses of Rod Brind’Amour and Ray Whitney, the situation will be one to watch closely in the coming weeks.


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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 53 40 9 4 175 120 84
2 FLA 54 32 16 6 150 122 70
3 NYR 54 31 18 5 153 135 67
4 NYI 53 29 18 6 150 131 64
5 DET 54 28 18 8 136 132 64
6 BOS 54 29 19 6 159 148 64
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11 PHI 53 24 20 9 127 138 57
12 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
13 OTT 56 25 25 6 157 173 56
14 CBJ 56 22 28 6 140 173 50
15 BUF 55 21 28 6 125 151 48
16 TOR 53 19 25 9 122 149 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 54 15 19 -13 34
J. Skinner 54 19 12 -3 31
V. Rask 52 12 19 0 31
J. Staal 54 12 19 8 31
K. Versteeg 53 10 21 1 31
E. Staal 54 9 21 0 30
E. Lindholm 54 8 16 -9 24
A. Nestrasil 47 7 12 0 19
J. Nordstrom 43 5 9 2 14
R. Hainsey 54 3 11 -11 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 15 11 6 .908 2.38
E. Lack 9 10 3 .901 2.74
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