Ward to Shoulder Load Down Stretch
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According to coach Paul Maurice, the Hurricanes goaltender, whose of streak of 24 straight starts in goal was broken by Justin Peters’ appearance in Friday’s loss in Chicago, could start all 16 games to finish the regular season.
“We looked at the schedule, and I don’t imagine there will be a lot of time when we won’t be looking at him,” said Maurice after Sunday’s off-ice workout at the RecZone. “Unless something comes up where he’s not right or not feeling right and we don’t feel he can be mentally ready for the game, I would expect that he’ll be ready to go.”
If Ward does finish the season without interruption, he will have started 40 of the team’s final 41 games and would lead the league with 74. That number could even be higher if not for back-to-back starts by Peters in early January with Ward sidelined by a minor infection. Ward already leads the league in shots against with 1,870, 131 more than Montreal’s Carey Price, who ranks second.
That being said, his night off in Chicago, coupled with the six-day break between his Thursday start in Buffalo and his expected Wednesday start against Atlanta, will result in an unprecedented spell of rest for the Canes’ workhorse. The team hopes that will have him prepared to shoulder the load down the stretch.
“He should be well-rested and fresh,” said Maurice. “We have enough blocks of time off between our blocks of games. We ran him (24) games in a row, so this will just be a short hop for him. This will be easy for him.”
Prior to the Chicago game, Maurice said that he planned to start Ward as long as the goaltender felt up to it following his overtime win over the Sabres. On Sunday, Maurice said that the team’s coaches instead made the decision to start Peters in Chicago.
“It wasn’t a conversation where he was given an opportunity to give his opinion,” said Maurice of Ward. “We assessed where he was physically after that game (against Buffalo) and made that decision after the game.”
While Ward, barring injury, seems certain to break his personal single-season starts record of 68 set in 2008-09, he won’t set a franchise record this season. That honor is held by Arturs Irbe, who started 76 for Maurice during the 2000-01 season.