Canes' Ward vows to keep calm, carry on

Coach 'glad to see' Friday's outburst on the bench

calexander@newsobserver.comDecember 12, 2011 

— Carolina Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller put his team through a rigorous practice Sunday at the Air Canada Centre.

"Be focused, be sharp," Muller shouted. "Fight through it, fight through it."

The day before, Muller said many of the same things to goaltender Cam Ward, except in a much calmer tone. It was a coach-and-player talk that both probably needed after Ward's outburst Friday night in Winnipeg.

Pulled from the game in the second period after the Jets had taken a 4-0 lead, Ward was visibly upset on the bench, frustrated, the emotions of a tough season spilling out of him.

"I think it built up over a period of time," Ward said Sunday. "I pretty much yelled a bad word as loud as I could a couple of times and that was it."

Ward, benched for the second time in three games, said he was "purely venting" and that the brief, uncharacteristic tirade was not aimed at Muller, who was coaching his sixth game with the Canes.

"I was absolutely not directing it at anybody," Ward said.

"I was thinking about smashing the stick but didn't do that. I just started yelling."

"It's over and done with," he added. "I take pride in remaining calm. But sometimes it's an emotional game and gets the best of you."

Which is OK, Muller said he told Ward.

"He showed emotion because he cares," Muller said. "If he didn't care and he wasn't a winner, he probably would have just come to the bench (quietly). But I was actually glad to see the emotion he had."

Ward, 27, was an NHL All-Star last season, when he played a career-high 74 games. But this season has been nightmarish, for Ward and the Canes (9-18-4), who have seen Paul Maurice fired and tumbled to the bottom of the NHL's Eastern Conference.

The Hurricanes embarked on a Canadian road trip last Monday, hoping to right the ship. Ward was touched for six goals and pulled in the third period of a 7-6 loss to the Calgary Flames. Ward and the Canes bounced back the next night for a solid 5-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers, ending a seven-game winless streak, but then lost 4-2 to the Jets as Ward played 31 minutes, 26 seconds and faced 30 shots before Muller again made a change.

Murphy, 22, made his NHL debut against the Flames and was in for a longer stretch against the Jets.

"I felt it was the right time ... to get (Murphy) playing and see if the team can respond when you throw a young kid in there," Muller said.

Jeff Skinner, the Canes' leading scorer, missed the Jets game with what the team announced Friday were flu-like symptoms. The Canes were off Saturday and Skinner was not at practice Sunday - forward Drayson Bowman was an emergency recall from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL.

Skinner, according to the Hurricanes, now is sidelined an undisclosed injury. Muller said Skinner returned to Raleigh for evaluation and did not rule him out of Tuesday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Skinner took a hard hit from Edmonton's Andy Sutton in Wednesday's game, but Muller said there were no concussion issues.

Eric Staal also was back in Raleigh on Sunday as his wife, Tanya, gave birth to the couple's second son, Levi John. Staal is expected to play Tuesday.

Muller said he told Ward all he wanted from him was two days of hard practice, then to concentrate on his first save against the Leafs. Forget all the rest, Muller said.

"I told him, 'You'll get through it,'" Muller said. "I said, 'When the fun times come, you're going to enjoy it that much more.'"

That's what Ward is after.

"I write 'Have fun' on my sticks for a reason," Ward said. "And although at times it's been extremely difficult to have fun, I need to do that and get back to that.

"I need to try to stay positive and get my game back in control. Obviously things aren't coming easy. There's only one way to get out of it and that's by putting in the work."

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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