Although some alarm bells went off when Cam Ward
sat out the initial portion of Team Canada’s Olympic Orientation Camp with a sore back last week, it was always going to come down to how he felt come Hurricanes season.
Given that he participated fully in the team’s informal practice on Monday – almost two full weeks before he would have been required to take the ice – it seems as though the injury won’t be much of a concern.
“After I got some treatment and some medication I was able to go out on the ice,” said Ward, who later participated in the final red/white scrimmage at the Canadian camp. “I felt great out there.”
The Canes' starting goaltender was part of a stacked group at Monday's RecZone scrimmage, as his unit headined by Eric Staal, Erik Cole, Ray Whitney and Rod Brind'Amour appeared to get the better of the red team, which was led by Chad LaRose and Scott Walker.
"I picked the right team today," said Ward.
He described his back injury, which started as spasms but has subsided into stiffness, as something that has only popped up twice (also during the Eastern Conference Finals against Pittsburgh) and did not bother him throughout the summer. Ward was cautious when it flared up again just prior to the Olympic camp, not necessarily because he thought it would still be bothering him when the season started, but because he only had a small window in which to demonstrate his skills to the Canadian brass.
“It was pretty stressful going in because I wasn’t sure if I would participate,” he said. “There was no point in going out there at 80 percent and getting lit up by some great players. I wanted to make sure that I was healthy.”
Ward played in the second period of Canada's scrimmage as time was divided as equally as possible among the five goaltenders in camp. Despite the relatively relaxed feel that the exhibition provided (think All-Star Game), the contest ended in a surprisingly low-scoring 2-2 tie – a credit to the goaltenders, no doubt.
“It wasn’t for a lack of opportunities, because the game was as wide-open as you might have expected,” said Ward.
The goaltending corps at Canada’s camp also consisted of Martin Brodeur, Marc-Andre Fleury, Roberto Luongo and Steve Mason, with three expected to make the final roster. Although it’s early in the process and the eventual selection process will have more to do with the opening months of the regular season than it will with the camp, Ward feels good about his chances thus far.
“I felt comfortable out there, and there’s a reason you get invited in the first place,” he said.