Ward to start again; Khudobin recalled

Posted by Chip Alexander on December 31, 2013 

Cam Ward will be in net against the Montreal Canadiens on New Year's Eve as the Canes end the year badly needing a victory.

It's just one game in 82 and the Canes' 40th of the season, but they're winless in their last five and have lost eight of nine. General manager Jim Rutherford is talking about changes, and the sense of urgency about the team has been ramped up.

"We're in a game of getting results," Canes coach Kirk Muller said. "We feel we're playing well enough to win games but not finishing them off. That's the bottom line.

"We feel like we're beating ourselves more than the opponents, so that's the part we need to correct. We just need to get different results and play smarter going down the stretch."

Muller said comments that were made about a potential team shakeup -- forward Kevin Westgarth was dealt Monday to the Calgary Flames -- and trade speculation haven't been a distraction for the players or coaches. He called the Canes a "pretty focused group."

"They know it's business as usual tonight and they're ready to go," he said. "We know as a staff, players, everybody here, we know we're in a playoff race and we need to win some hockey games. We feel comfortable with that.

"Our veteran players have to play better. They know that. That gives us a better chance to win, like any hockey club. But there's more positives than negatives."

Goalie Anton Khudobin was recalled Tuesday from the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) after a conditioning stint that lasted two games. Khudobin, who had 41 saves Monday against Rockford, could be activated off injured reserve and back in the net for the Canes this week.

"It's always a little tricky with three goalies," Muller said. "At the end of the day the guy who gives us the better opportunity to win a hockey game will play."

Ward will start his second straight game for the first time since the Dec. 1 game against Vancouver. He has played four games since then as Justin Peters started eight times.

Ward allowed four goals on 26 shots Sunday in the 5-2 loss to Toronto. He is 5-7-5 for the season, his last victory coming Dec. 6 when the Canes topped the San Jose Sharks 5-3.

Of Ward's play against the Leafs, Muller said, "He made some big saves and (had) probably some he wishes he had back. But for me it's more that he has to build off of that game. He has to build his confidence. He got a full game in and he's playing two days later."

Defenseman Andrej Sekera, like Muller, said the Canes have been playing "good hockey but not getting the results."

"We need to keep doing the right things, keep doing the simple things, play hard in our zone and play hard on defense," Sekera said.

While the losses have been frustrating, Sekera said the Canes can't dwell on the winless streak or overanalyze it, noting, "There's plenty of hockey ahead of us. Just learn from it and move on."

The Canadiens (23-14-3) are playing the fifth of six straight road games. The Habs had 22 shots in a 4-1 loss Sunday against the Florida Panthers and are averaging 23 over the past six games (3-3-0).

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