Canes’ Peters doing the job in goal

calexander@newsobserver.comNovember 13, 2013 

— Manny Malhotra had the overtime winner against the Philadelphia Flyers and Radek Dvorak the only goal in a win against the New York Islanders.

On Tuesday, center Jordan Staal and wingers Nathan Gerbe and Patrick Dwyer – the so-called “Small, Medium & Large” line – had a big hand in the Carolina Hurricanes’ 2-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche.

But one constant in the Canes’ 3-0-1 homestand has been goaltender Justin Peters, who has gotten the job done in net.

The Hurricanes’ defensemen have been active in front of the net, and the forwards also have helped out. But it’s the man between the pipes who ultimately has to keep the puck out of the net.

Against the Avalanche, a team filled with speedy, attacking forwards, Peters had 33 saves. In the past four games at PNC Arena, Peters has stopped 110 of 114 shots for a save percentage of .965.

“I think a lot of people are happy for him because he’s a great team guy,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said. “He works hard. He said in (training) camp, ‘Hey, I worked hard this summer to get ready for this year.’ Things happened and he didn’t get that opportunity. Then, again, injuries kicked in and now he does.

“He started off a little rough and he stuck with it. I think that’s a tribute to him, for the mental toughness. He’s turned the corner and he’s shown he can win now and that’s all from a real hard compete level.”

Peters, 27, started the season with the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League but was recalled after goalie Anton Khudobin was injured Oct. 13. The thinking was that Cam Ward would get a heavy workload and Peters would fill in for a game or two until Khudobin returned.

And then Ward was injured. He left the Oct. 24 road game against the Minnesota Wild with a lower-body injury and suddenly Peters was the No. 1 goalie.

There have been some rough patches. Peters allowed goals on the Wild’s first two shots after relieving Ward. Carl Hagelin of the New York Rangers beat him on a couple of shots. Against the Wild on Saturday at PNC Arena, Peters was beaten on all three shots during the shootout loss.

But even after the Wild game, Peters said, “It was fun.” He said the word again Tuesday after the victory against the Avalanche, who were 14-2-0 overall and brought a 6-0-0 road record into the game.

Peters enjoys the competition and relishes the challenge. It’s his moment for now and the Blyth, Ont., native is trying to make the most of it.

“It’s every goalie’s dream, the chance to come out and prove yourself,” he said.

Peters credits his work with Canes goaltending coach Greg Stefan with improving his technique, anticipation and efficiency of movement.

“We’re working on just my eyes – following the puck, reading the play,” Peters said. “Staying square to the shooters, when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive.”

Peters has made the timely saves in the Canes’ recent surge. In shutting out the Islanders 1-0, he stopped a Michael Grabner breakaway. Against the Avs, he robbed Nathan MacKinnon of a goal with a glove save.

Peters should be in net for a ninth straight start Friday as the Canes (7-7-4) close the run of home games against the Anaheim Ducks. It’s possible Ward may be the backup goalie, Muller said.

And then? Khudobin, who has a lower-body injury, may be another week or so away. Ward and Peters could both start games.

And when a healthy Khudobin returns? Peters likely will go back to the Checkers. Then again, it could make for an interesting decision.

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

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