While nothing is yet set in stone, Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward
feels confident that the back troubles that have plagued him on and off this year will have no long-term effects on his future.
The team’s franchise goaltender first experienced back spasms in the 2009 playoffs and then again during Canada’s Olympic orientation camp this past offseason. An unrelated back issue then popped up during the February 3 game at Calgary, which has kept him out of the lineup ever since.
Despite initial concerns over the most recent problem, Ward said he expects a full recovery in relatively short order.
”The doctor told me there was a five percent chance of it coming back, so I like my odds,” he said.
The goaltender resumed practicing with the team on Tuesday and is on track for a return to game action sometime next week. While the Canes will need every possible point over the last nine games of this season to even consider the possibility of a playoff spot, the team is more concerned about getting Ward back in games to get the best possible read on his condition moving forward.
”To leave the season when he’s done playing with a real good idea of where his injury is at … is very important so we’re not having those same questions in September of next year,” said coach Paul Maurice.
Ward said that he knew right away that his latest back issues were different and more concerning than what he had struggled with earlier.
”It was a small thing that I felt in the first period of that Calgary game and didn’t think was serious enough to pull myself out of the game,” he said. “But as I went along over time, it got worse and worse to the point that I haven’t had that much pain in my back in my whole life.
“I sure hope that doesn’t happen again, and I’m confident it won’t.”
In addition to making multiple visits to back specialists, Ward has been working with the Hurricanes’ training staff to put himself in the best possible condition to avoid further setbacks. That has him feeling as though he could contribute immediately upon re-entering the lineup.
“This year I’ve suffered a couple of significant injuries, and in the first one I was able to come back and in my eyes play pretty strong,” said Ward, referring to a leg laceration suffered in early November. “My expectations are the same with this one. I want to come back and feel good about myself and the team before the season ends.”
While no specific date for his return has been made public, it seems as though he could be aiming to play either Wednesday at Montreal or Thursday at Ottawa. That could change depending on how he feels this week, as he claims to be feeling better each day.
”The way things are going right now, there’s no reason to think that I couldn’t be back within a week,” he said. “When I come back, I want to be able to perform at my full potential because that’s only fair to the team, especially since both of our goaltenders have played so great since I’ve been out. I want to make sure that when I come back I’m ready.”