While Cam Ward made a late appearance today at the Canes' morning skate, Justin Peters will be in goal tonight against the Anaheim Ducks and will be coming off his first NHL shutout.
All of which makes Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau wary.
"I've seen Justin a lot and when he's on, he's on," Boudreau said after the Ducks' skate. "He's probably feeling pretty good about himself, coming off his first shutout. I'm always leery playing against guys like that. I'm sure he's going to be great tonight."
Leery? Of the Canes' backup goalie? Ward is the one who used to beat Boudreau when he was coaching the Washington Capitals.
"I've seen it happen so many times," Boudreau said. "You face guys who aren't used to being in the limelight or whatever and come in. And for short periods of time they can be superhuman. It's happened many times, then they end up coming back to earth with one game."
Boudreau mentioned former Canes and Flyers goalie Michael Leighton, Ty Conklin, Joey MacDonald.
"The backup goes in and gets hot," Boudreau said. "There's a reason they're in the minors for so many years, but then they can come in and be standing on their head and look as good as anybody.
"(Peters) is in one of these modes and mindsets. Plus the team is in that 'up' mindset."
The surging Ducks are 15-3-4 since Jan. 4 and 4-1-2 on an eight-game road trip that ends tonight against the Canes. The Ducks topped the Canes 3-2 in overtime in Anaheim on Feb. 8 in their last home game before heading out.
But if Boudreau is wary of Peters, who shut out the Caps 5-0 Monday, he's also wary of the Canes in general and Eric Staal in particular. Carolina is 10-5-5 in 2012 and 5-1-2 in February.
"I've seen Carolina do this in February in three of the last four years, where they start off the year bad and all of a sudden they catch fire and become unbeatable at this time of year for about a month straight," he said. "They're doing it again.
"Eric Staal is leading the way. When he gets hot it doesn't matter who's on his wings. He makes them better and he carries them."
The Ducks (25-25-10) are six points out of eighth place in the West and the Canes (23-26-11) eight points out in the East. As Boudreau put it, both are looking up and asking the same question: "Why not us."
The Canes will need Ward back if they're to make a sustained push. Canes coach Kirk Muller said today that he's hopeful Ward, out since leaving the New York Islanders game on Saturday with a lower-body injury, could return to practice Friday.
The Canes at one point today had four goalies on the ice: Ward, Peters, Brian Boucher and Mike Murphy, who was recalled Wednesday from the Charlotte Checkers (AHL). Murphy will be the backup tonight.
Tuomo Ruutu, who signed a four-year contract extension Wednesday, remains out with an upper-body injury but was around the locker room today at the RBC Center.
"We're excited on our side," Muller said of Ruutu re-signing. "A big thing for me is having character guys and there is a lot of character guys in this room. We're trying to keep these type of people here and build with the nucleus of that kind of a group, and 'Ruuts' fits into that category. He's a competitor, he plays hard, he's a tough guy to play against, so we're excited he wanted to stay here."