At the start of the season, the Carolina Hurricanes would have never predicted that the Charlotte Checkers' goaltending tandem would become their own just months later.
But, injuries to both Cam Ward
and Brian Boucher
have resulted in Justin Peters
and Mike Murphy
handling goaltending duties for the Hurricanes, at least for tonight.
Ward had a small “tweak” that kept him out of practice on Thursday. After backing up Peters on Friday, Ward started Saturday in New York but only played for two periods. Peters played in the third period, and will start again tonight. Ward is officially day-to-day with a lower body injury.
The Canes recalled Murphy to back up Peters tonight against Washington. Murphy said he got the call yesterday and made the snowy trek to Raleigh around 6 p.m.
“It was like driving through Canada last night,” he said. “I didn’t expect to drive through North Carolina like that. A little taste of home.”
While this is Murphy’s second National Hockey League stint, it is his first time in Raleigh. His first NHL recall was in early December, in the midst of the Hurricanes’ Western Canada road swing.
During that time, he made two brief appearances in Calgary and Winnipeg, in what he said was “great to get a taste of the NHL.” The game in Calgary ended up being a historical one, as Murphy became the first NHL goaltender to record a loss before allowing a goal.
Three nights later in Winnipeg, Murphy played over 27 minutes and made seven saves on seven shots. He brings a 1.000 save percentage into tonight’s game, despite being 0-1 in his NHL career.
“It’s great to be back,” he said. “It’s unfortunate with the injuries, but it’s always a lot of fun to practice with this team.”
Murphy himself is just now recovering from an injury he suffered in warm-ups with Charlotte on Jan. 24. He hasn’t played in a game since Jan. 21, but he didn't appear to show any signs of rust in the morning skate.
“I’m good,” he said. “I felt really good out there today.”
Head coach Kirk Muller said he hopes to have Ward back in the fold by Thursday, when the Anaheim Ducks come to town. Until then, he feels confident with the tandem in net.
“You deal with what you’re dealt with as far as injuries,” he said. “Peters will be in net tonight. Murph is healthy, and he’s capable of playing. He’s ready to go in at any time.”
Muller said he pulled Ward after two periods on Saturday for precautionary reasons.
“It’s a tough position not to be able to perform at 100 percent, and I didn’t think he was at 100 percent,” he said. “I’m not going to take any chances. We’ve got a lot of games in March, as well as a big part of the schedule right now at home.”
On Friday, Peters made 35 saves on 37 shots against a San Jose team that averages the most shots per game in the League at nearly 35. That was Peters’ first start since Jan. 7, and his first start at home since Jan. 9, 2011. His win was the first for a goaltender other than Ward since that Jan. 9 date, a 4-3 overtime win over the Atlanta Thrashers.
In relief of Ward on Saturday, Peters made nine saves on 10 shots, allowing the game-winning goal on a chaotic scrum in front of the net.
In other injury news, Jiri Tlusty
will play tonight, despite not taking part in the morning skate. Chad LaRose
skated in his place but will not dress. Muller made some slight changes to the lines, which can be seen here
The last meeting between the Canes and Capitals came on Jan. 20 at the RBC Center, a 3-0 win for the Hurricanes. Jussi Jokinen
had two goals and Ward made 23 saves. The Capitals enter with a 3-5-2 record in their last 10 games; they've dropped three of their last four.
Coming into tonight’s game, the Canes have won five of their last six at home, including two straight in February.
“I think the focus has been great. We’ve really built a momentum with the fan base. It helps that people are energetic and loud here,” Muller said. “It’s a lot easier to get the right match-up at home. We’ve been able to play a good, hard, fast, high-tempo game here.”