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Ward's Diagnosis Will Wait

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
Those anxiously waiting to learn the status of Cam Ward’s back injury will have to wait a little longer.

The goaltender underwent tests from a specialist in Charlotte today, where it was determined that Ward would need to a second appointment to fully determine the nature of the problem.

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“I don’t have a full update, but it is my understanding that he’s going to meet with the doctors in two week’s time,” said General Manager Jim Rutherford. “It’s really a rest period here with two weeks to really get the proper diagnosis.”

Rutherford said that tests confirmed that this problem is unrelated to the back ailments that Ward has experienced on and off since last season’s Eastern Conference Final series against Pittsburgh. However, that doesn’t mean the team won’t closely monitor the situation with its 25-year-old franchise goaltender, who signed a six-year contract extension in September.

”We will be very cautious with Cam, although we’d be cautious with any player,” said Rutherford. “We will be careful of what his future is going to be, and there certainly won’t be a timetable for him to hurry back to play.”

Although Ward will certainly miss the Canes’ next three games this week, the following two-week Olympic break will come at a fortunate time if he is able to return this season. By the time the team reconvenes in Toronto on March 2, there should be a much better idea of what the immediate future holds.

In the meantime, Manny Legace is expected to earn the bulk of the starts, although Rutherford said he was eager to see what Justin Peters could do in the coming weeks. Peters impressed in his long-awaited NHL debut on Saturday and could be auditioning for a job backing up Ward next season.

“He gave us a great game, and I’m very happy for him because I know how hard he’s worked from the day he got drafted,” said Rutherford of Peters. “This will be a very good time and experience for Justin going forward here in the games that he’s going to play for us between now and the end of the year.”

Ward’s recent workload – he appeared in 68 games last season, a total he could possibly have exceeded if healthy for all of this year – suggested that it might be difficult to develop a young goaltender such as Peters with limited playing time. However, Ward’s health issues this year may prove concerning enough to alter that plan in the future.

“A lot of things have changed here in a short period of time where we’re dealing with a pretty significant injury to Cam and also getting a chance to see a young goalie,” said Rutherford. “When you look at a goalie of Cam’s stature and think that he can play 65 or 70 games but then you have another young goalie in your organization then can give you more good games, it may be in the best interests of both goalies and the team for those game projections to change.”

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