Hurricanes lose Cam Ward, fall to Wild 3-1

calexander@newsobserver.comOctober 24, 2013 

— Ten games into the season and the Carolina Hurricanes may already have reached a state of emergency.

The Hurricanes lost goaltender Cam Ward to a lower-body injury early in their game Thursday against the Minnesota Wild, who won 3-1 at Xcel Energy Center.

Ward, who will be sidelined three to four weeks, was hurt as he kicked out his right pad to stop a shot by the Wild’s Mikael Granlund that was wide of the net. With 15 minutes, 53 seconds left in the first period, Ward was taken to the locker room for treatment as Justin Peters rushed into the game.

The Canes already were without goalie Anton Khudobin, who sustained a lower-body injury Oct. 13 in a game against the Phoenix Coyotes. Peters was called up from the Checkers on an emergency basis after Khudobin went down.

With a return date for Khudobin unknown, the Canes scrambled Thursday night to get Checkers goalie Mike Murphy to Colorado for Friday’s game against the Avalanche.

“Peters came in and did a good job for jumping in in that kind of situation,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said. “But no excuses. It’s part of the game.

“The guys responded really well. I thought they stayed with the game plan.”

Ward’s injury wasn’t the only concern for the Hurricanes. Forward Jeff Skinner also left the game with an upper-body injury and did not return.

Nino Niederreiter and Zach Parise scored goals for the Wild (5-3-3) in the first period after Ward’s departure. Niederreiter scored on a top-shelf shot in front on a power play, and Parise crashed the net to score an even-strength goal on the rebound of a Jared Spurgeon shot.

Alexander Semin scored a power-play goal for the Canes early in the second period against Josh Harding, the Wild’s starting goalie. Harding also left the game as Niklas Backstrom took over in net in the third period.

The final goal was an empty netter by the Wild’s Dany Heatley in the final minute.

Peters appeared in just one game for the Checkers before being recalled Oct. 14. He played in a career-high 19 games for the Canes last season, posting a 4-11-1 record.

“You never want to see one of your teammates get hurt,” said Peters, who stopped 19 of 21 shots. “They got two quick ones on me right after I got in. I just tried to get my bearings and try to battle for the boys.

“Once I got into the game I felt more comfortable and tried to prove to myself than I’m an NHL goalie and instill that trust.”

The Canes helped lighten Peters’ load Thursday by limiting the Wild to six second-period shots while forcing three penalties – the third with 14.7 seconds left in the period. But the Canes could not convert the power play to begin the third.

“I thought it came down to the power play. We didn’t come out in the third and execute,” Muller said.

The Hurricanes (4-3-3) had won three straight on the road, and captain Eric Staal was playing his 700th career game Thursday and extended his point streak to five games. But the injuries to Ward and Skinner quickly overshadowed that.

Muller was not sure of the severity of Skinner’s injury.

Ward suffered a serious knee injury in early March that knocked him out of the remainder of the 2013 season and soon had the Canes in a nose dive. He recovered by the beginning of this season and had shaken off a sluggish start to win his past two games last week against the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders.

The Wild, while struggling to score goals early in the season, brought some gaudy defensive numbers into the game. Minnesota led the NHL in shots allowed per game (21.2). The Wild was fourth in goals-against per game (2.00) and had allowed just five five-on-five goals this season, the best in the NHL.

“Our bread and butter is our defense,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said Thursday morning. “It’s our structure, how we pursue, how we execute.”

Having Harding be so stingy in net helps, too. Entering the game, Harding was fourth in the NHL in goals-against average at 0.96 and ninth in save percentage .953 after a 2-0 shutout of the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.

Harding also has one the league’s most inspirational stories. He has multiple sclerosis, having been diagnosed last October, and complications with his medication forced him to miss three months of last season.

While Staal reached a milestone Thursday, defenseman Tim Gleason did not. Gleason, who has recovered from a concussion suffered in the preseason, was hoping to be in the lineup for the first time this season and play his 600th game, but the decision was made to hold him out.

The Canes, who had not played since the Saturday game against the Isles, also held out rookie Elias Lindholm. The forward, who missed his fifth straight game with a shoulder injury, could play Friday

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