Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Carolina Hurricanes learned last
season just how devastating the loss of a No. 1 goaltender could be.
After Cam Ward suffered a knee injury in March that caused him to miss the
final 27 games of the shortened season, the Hurricanes went from first place
in the Southeast Division to a top-five pick in the 2013 draft.
Armed with this knowledge, and the fact that Justin Peters needed a bit more
seasoning before being NHL ready, the Hurricanes inked 27-year-old netminder
Anton Khudobin this offseason.
Sure, Khudobin didn't have a ton of NHL experience, but his small sample of
work was more than adequate, especially after he went 9-4-1 with a 2.32 goals
against average in 14 games last season with the Boston Bruins.
So when Ward went down just over four minutes into Thursday's game with the
Minnesota Wild, Khudobin was ready for action.
Except he wasn't.
So much for Plan B as Khudobin has been on injured reserve since Oct. 14
because of a lower body injury.
So in again stepped Peters, who was unable to keep the Hurricanes afloat last
season while the S.S. Ward was docked. His latest trial got off to a rougher
start than an NBC television pilot as he allowed goals on the first two shots
he faced in an eventual 3-1 setback.
"They got two quick ones on me right when I got in. I just tried to get my
bearings and battle for the boys," said Peters. "Once I got into the game I
definitely felt more comfortable. I just tried to prove to myself I'm an NHL
goalie and instill that trust into the team."
Carolina announced during the game that Ward will miss 3-to-4 weeks with his
lower body injury, which came when he stretched out with his right pad to make
a save. The 29-year-old remained on his knees for a few moments before getting
to his feet as play continued.
However, following a whistle on an offsides, Ward skated over to the bench and
Any team holds their collective breath when a top goaltender goes down, but
the Hurricanes have good reason to be jittery. Last season, Carolina was in
first place with a 12-8-1 record and Ward was 9-6-1 with a 2.84 GAA before
suffering a knee injury.
Carolina went 7-17-3 the rest of the way.
Peters, a 2004 second-round pick, got the bulk of the work over fellow
netminder Dan Ellis, but went just 4-11-1 with a 3.46 GAA and .891 save
percentage in 19 games and 16 starts.
It appears it will be the Peters show again as head coach Kirk Muller noted
after Thursday's loss that even if Khudobin returned to action following the
weekend, when the 'Canes return home from a four-game road trip, he would
still need some practice time to get up to speed and probably wouldn't be
ready before the end of the week.
The other option for Muller right now is 2008 sixth-round pick Mike Murphy,
owner of 36 minutes of NHL action over two previous appearances.
Peters it is.
"Hopefully I can learn from my past experiences," the netminder said after
Thursday's game. "I've had some more experience now, which is a positive
thing. I had a lot of experience last year. Just go one period at a time, one
save at a time and try and instill some trust and confidence in these guys
that I'm going to do the job back there."
Unlike last season, the Hurricanes can assume that Ward will be back in action
this season. That should leave a little less pressure for Peters, who doesn't
need to shoulder the load long term.
Heading into play on Friday, Carolina sat second in the Metropolitan Division.
Now it hopes to remain near that spot until Ward can return.
"Hey, this is his opportunity and he's got to find a way to get the job done,"
Muller said of Peters.
"I'm sure he's going to be excited to show he can play in the NHL."
Not exactly how the Hurricanes drew it up this past offseason.
The Sports Network