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Examining the Carolina Hurricanes goaltenders

by John McGourty / NHL.com

 
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Who's No. 1?

Cam Ward was one of Carolina's heroes when they won the Stanley Cup two years ago, but don't forget he was a late-season replacement for Martin Gerber and played only 28 regular-season games. He even played a couple games in the AHL. The Hurricanes turned over the starter's job to Ward last season and while he wasn't awful, he wasn't consistently good either. Carolina's astute strength and conditioning coach, Pete Friesen, outlined a program for Ward to follow this past summer and, to his credit, Ward spent most of that time right under Friesen's nose in Raleigh. As a result, he's dropped 20 pounds and will play at 180 pounds. He said he feels like he's had a lead vest lifted from his chest.

Ward has the tools and the demeanor to be a very good NHL netminder. He's already showed he can handle pressure. He's a young kid and had to learn, like many others, the need to be in top shape. Now that he's there, it's more than likely that goaltending won't be an area of concern for Carolina this year.

Backup plan

Veteran John Grahame fills the net at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds. He had a better goals-against average than Ward last season and the same save percentage. The background numbers are useful, but not the last word. It's about wins. Ward won 53 percent of his starts while Grahame won 40 percent of his starts, while presumably playing against weaker teams. Grahame has been a backup for most of his eight-year NHL career and has a record of 92-79-14.

In the Wings

Michael Leighton -- Is Leighton a good NHL goalie? Either only the Swami knows or six NHL general managers that have discarded him are correct. Leighton is one of the biggest enigmas in the NHL. A genuinely nice guy with a good work ethic, Leighton was a sixth-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks after playing four years for Windsor in the OHL. He played well for Chicago's AHL affiliate in Norfolk, but struggled with the rest of the team in Chicago. Leighton since has been shipped through Buffalo, Anaheim, Nashville, Philadelphia and Montreal. He has a 10-23-13 NHL record. Perhaps the biggest endorsement he's had in recent seasons is that he was signed by Carolina GM Jim Rutherford, a former NHL goalie who has mastered the subject matter. Leighton will be available if Grahame again provides sub-.500 backup play.

Justin Peters -- Rutherford used his second-round pick, 38th overall, in 2004 to select Justin Peters, 21, a 6-foot, 209-pounder who went 10-18 in 34 games in AHL Albany last season. He's almost sure to play another AHL season and the Hurricanes expect improved results.

Giguere
Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford on Cam Ward:

"Cam deserves a lot of credit. He was asked to play a lot of games last year, and basically it was his first full year as a No. 1 goalie. In order to be able to do that, you really have to be in top shape, and so that was one of the things that he was asked to do in the off-season, to really work hard on his conditioning, and he has. He is in the best condition he's been in his career."
FAST FACTS

1. Cam Ward had career highs with 60 games played, 30 wins, a 2.93 GAA, an .897 save percentage and two shutouts.

Grahame
2. John Grahame and his mom, Charlotte, both have their names on the Stanley Cup. He was with Tampa Bay in 2004. His mom was an Avalanche executive in 2001.

3. Leighton was the first goaltender in Blackhawk history to record a shutout in his NHL debut, a 0-0 tie with Phoenix on Jan. 8, 2003.


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