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Ward Returns to Practice; To Play Next Week

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
Although the Hurricanes still haven’t been able to field a full team of 20 skaters in practice this week, they had more than their share of goaltenders on Thursday.

Cam Ward practiced fully with the team – at least as much as each of three goaltenders can participate fully – for the first time since suffering a severe laceration above his knee from the skate of Columbus’ Rick Nash. He had been skating prior to practice earlier this week and saw a few shots from Assistant Coach Tom Barrasso, but not to the degree that he saw Thursday.

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“You tend to forget that it’s been over three weeks since I’ve seen a shot,” said Ward. “You’d think that it would take some time to get your reaction back, but quite honestly I felt pretty comfortable out there in the net, and hopefully I can get a few more good practices in the next few days.”

“I thought he looked pretty good,” said Coach Paul Maurice. “There’s something to be said for talent, and even for a guy who’s coming off the injury and hasn’t seen pucks since November 7, he still gets in front of it. He’s technically so good and so quick that even when he’s moving on one leg he’s good.”

The Hurricanes and Ward are now targeting a return date of December 9 at New Jersey. Maurice said that the goaltender had a chance to return two days earlier at Pittsburgh, but the later game remains a safer bet.

“I’m really close,” said Ward. “I’m trying to do what I can to get myself back in the lineup. It’s not a lot of fun sitting from the sidelines and watching games, but I’ve got to be smart about my decision of when I come back and make sure that when I get back on the ice I can play to my potential. It’s not fair to the team for me to go out there and not be at 100 percent.”

Considering the severity of the injury and the fact that he was hospitalized just a few weeks ago, Ward did look surprisingly mobile in the net. Popping back up to his feet from the butterfly position, something that one would think should be quite difficult, seemed fairly effortless.

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“There aren’t too many movements in my game where I’m limited because of my knee,” he said. “I’ve got the flexibility back and there’s still a little bit of slight pain, but that should be going away in no time.”

The recent injury actually marks the second time the goaltender has been cut by a skate blade, as he also missed three games during the 2006-07 season due to a less-severe injury. The fact that something similar has already happened twice in his five NHL seasons has prompted him to begin wearing an extra pad above his knees, which many other goaltenders use.

“I’ve learned from my mistakes and I’m going to start wearing some thigh/knee guards from hereon out,” he said. “I’ve got to realize that the Hurricanes organization has invested in me and I’ve got to make sure that I’m protected.”

Although it’s not clear how much the added padding would have protected him from each injury, it’s an extra measure that he’ll take despite some relative discomfort – the reason he’s never worn them in the past.

“They’re not very comfortable just because I’m not used to it, but I know that with some more time and some more practice I’ll get more and more used to it,” he said.

Of all the players who missed yesterday’s practice, only Jussi Jokinen remained sidelined. However, Maurice said after practice that he was hoping to have Jokinen, along with Chad LaRose, back for Saturday’s game. Scott Walker is also a good bet after practicing with the team all week.

Maurice added that he would also have another defenseman from Albany in time for tomorrow’s practice. Since Joe Corvo went down with a leg laceration of his own, the Hurricanes have been practicing with just five blue liners. An recall announcement should be made sometime Thursday evening.

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