NHL.com's weekly Q&A feature called "Five Questions With ..." runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game today and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
Cam Ward didn't have to make a signature save to prove he's back from his groin injury, healthy and prepared to rejoin the elite players at his position. He did it anyway.
Ward's diving, stick save on Ottawa Senators forward Colin Greening on Sunday at PNC Arena came early in the first period, after he had already given up a goal to Jason Spezza. It was one of 35 saves Ward made, but it was arguably the most important because it prevented Ottawa from taking a two-goal lead and ignited the Hurricanes, who scored three times in the second period and won the game, 4-1.
The win Sunday was Ward's first since he returned from his extended injury absence. He missed 10 games with a groin injury sustained on Oct. 24 at the Minnesota Wild. Ward also missed the final 27 games of last season with a knee injury that likely cost him an invitation to Canada's Olympic orientation camp in August.
Ward spoke to NHL.com about the save, the win, getting into a rhythm again after the injuries, his chances at the Olympics and Carolina's hopes of getting back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Here are Five Questions with … Cam Ward:
Since it's still current and people are still talking about it, I have to ask you about your save on Colin Greening the other night. Can you walk me through it, and can you compare it to any others that you have made, even going back to when you were a kid?
GAA: 2.66 | SVP: 0.918
"Nothing comes to mind thinking of another dive or paddle save like that that I have made. I've done it along the ice, but in mid-air that was pretty rare and unique for myself. It was almost like I turned into a little kid again and thought in my head how that was a pretty cool save. It was great to see the way the crowd reacted after the save and it definitely gave me goose bumps. That's why I signed up to be a goalie, making these cool saves."
Injuries have set you back the past couple of years, but after making a save like that, getting a win, getting a lot of action in back-to-back starts, does it all make you feel like you're finding a rhythm that was missing for far too long?
"Yeah, I feel like these last two games I have felt like my old self. It has been a mental test dealing with the couple of injuries I've had in the past year and a half. It's been hard to get into that rhythm again when you haven't played in a lot of game situations. So you do the best that you can to take the positives out of your game, and I thought in Boston [in a 3-2 overtime loss against the Boston Bruins Nov. 23] I felt really comfortable. I was seeing the puck and moving really well. But at the same time I was quite upset not getting the win, because at the end of the day it's about winning hockey games. To be able to rebound with another strong effort [Sunday] and be rewarded with a win is a huge confidence builder. I'm looking to continue to improve and get my game back to where it needs be, and that's at an elite level."
How much is it a mental preparation for you being tested with injuries compared to a physical preparation to get back to a place where you can go out and compete at a high level?
"It's huge, the mental side of it. Last year I tore my MCL on a freak collision in the crease, something you couldn't really do anything about. And I really took it upon myself to focus on my rehab and get myself in the best shape possible this summer in preparation of hoping to avoid any kind of injury the next season. Here I am, I get a groin tear in the first month of the season. That's where it tests you mentally. You're mad because you feel like you've tried to do everything you could to avoid a situation like that and it still happens. But you grow from it too. Adversity sometimes makes you stronger and I tried to keep that mindset that not only am I going to come back, but I'm going to come back better and stronger and help this team get on a roll again. But I need my play to do the talking. I can't afford to have the excuse of saying I haven't played a whole lot, I need to feel my way back in. I demand it on myself to be my best every time I get in the net."
An obvious topic of conversation that would have come up around you is the Olympics had it not been for your injury last season. You may have gotten an invite to Canada's orientation camp in August if you were healthy. Do you think you can do enough in a month to change some of the thinking and get yourself back in the discussion for Team Canada?
"Well, I think anything is possible. I was disappointed to be left off that list and I wanted to use that as motivation coming into the season. I do have about a month left before they're going to be announcing the team and I just have to do what I can to help the Hurricanes win. If I'm doing that, I know that there will be some eyes following me. I just have to try to take it one game at a time, as cliché as that sounds. I don't want to overthink it because I find when I overthink things I tense up and don't play the way that I can play.
"I knew that despite not being on the [orientation camp invitation] list the opportunity laid in my hands and it was up to me to do whatever I could this season to get into consideration again. I realize there are a lot of great goaltenders in Canada and other great selections that can be made, but I'm a competitive guy. I want to be not only one of the three [goaltenders selected], I want to be the guy. That's why you sign up to be a goaltender. You want to be a go-to guy. Despite the small chance that I may have right now I'm still going to shoot for it."
The Hurricanes haven't made the playoffs since 2009, and as someone who won the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe previously it has to be difficult to watch hockey in the spring. When you look at the Metropolitan Division now and the team you have, what do you say to yourself about your chances to end Carolina's playoff drought?
"It's been extremely disappointing missing the playoffs the way that we have because we do feel that we've had strong enough teams to make the playoffs. That's on us. Over the years we've learned that you've got to be a consistent team and can't afford to have any lapses throughout the season because the competition is so tight throughout the League, let alone your division. The way the season has shaped up this year with the Metropolitan Division, it's right there for us if we can play to our potential and play with some sort of consistency. It does get tiring to sit on the couch and watch playoff hockey. I've only been in the playoffs twice and both times it has gone really well once we got in, but it's the difficulty of trying to get in. There has been disappointment here in Carolina for not making it, and we owe it to our fans to try to get back there and give ourselves a chance to shoot for the Stanley Cup again."