After missing the beginning of training camp with upper body stiffness, Cam Ward
has been back on the ice for a couple of days participating in full practices with the team.
For Ward, that’s what he wanted all along. But he and the coaching staff knew they needed to be careful, even if the injury was “nothing serious,” as Ward mentioned. Like head coach Paul Maurice said on day one, there’s one time Ward isn’t needed all season, and that is at the beginning of camp.
“I felt great all summer long, and then suddenly I aggravate an injury before camp,” Ward said. “I think we took a very cautious route. I was very itchy to participate in camp. We’ve had a couple good practices here, and I feel really comfortable, so hopefully that carries into the game tomorrow.”
Ward is slated to start in tomorrow night’s preseason matchup with Nashville, his first taste of a game situation since April 9.
“He wants to get in there,” Maurice said. “I don’t know if we’ll leave him in for the whole 60, but he’ll get some work.”
“It’s going to be nice to get back into the swing of things and get that game experience again,” Ward said. “It’s going to probably be a little different, just because I haven’t played in awhile. But that’s what exhibition games are for – to fine tune things and get yourself prepared.”
Last season, Ward started in 74 of the team’s 82 games, getting only eight games of rest all season. Ideally, the coaching staff would like to sit Ward in about 20 games this season, letting veteran Brian Boucher
take some of the workload off of the young goalie.
Boucher signed a two-year deal with the Canes on the first day of free agency. In signing an experienced backup goaltender, the Canes shouldn’t have to rely on Ward as much as they have in seasons past. In Philadelphia last season, Boucher played in 34 regular-season games and nine playoff tilts. He won 18 games in the regular season and four in the playoffs.
“There’s no question that Boucher is a veteran guy that can come in at any time and win your team a hockey game, and that’s what you need,” Ward said. “I like the workload, and there’s not a game that you don’t want to be a part of. But at the same time, you need some rest to be at the best of your abilities through the duration of the season.”
In addition to the help Boucher can bring to the team, the defensive depth the Canes have built up won’t hurt, either.
“We’ve got guys with youth and some with experience. You’ve got some shutdown guys, and you’ve got some defensive guys,” he said. “I think it’s a good mix of a defenseman that’s going to be tough to play against, and I’m glad they’re in front of me.”
A familiar group of defensemen will be in front of Ward tomorrow night, with a couple of young faces mixed in. In any case, Ward is going to come prepared with the goal of getting a win.
“He’s not trying out, but he’s a competitive man,” Maurice said. “He always wants to play his best – exhibition, scrimmaging with the guys – and he always takes it personally. He’s ready.”