Canes goaltender Cam Ward put in a full practice Thursday at PNC Arena and was activated off injured reserve, moving another step closer to rejoining the lineup.
The team announced that Ward, who has not played since Dec. 31 against Montreal because of a lower-body injury, would join the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) for a conditioning stint. Ward was to fly to Cleveland on Thursday and possibly could play back-to-back games for Charlotte against the Lake Erie Monsters on Friday and Saturday.
"It's important that he go down and play a couple of games with Charlotte," Muller said. "I think that would be great for him for the simple reason, health-wise, that this is his first practice he's had. So we gave him the net for the full 40 minutes to get the timing and endurance back.
"The opportunity to go down there and play will get him in a good mindset. The biggest thing is. health-wise, that he can get through a game and he feels good and feels comfortable."
Ward was first sidelined in late-October, missing 10 games with a lower-body injury suffered Oct. 24 against Minnesota. He returned and played in 11 games, then was sidelined again after the New Year's Eve victory over the Canadiens.
Goalie Anton Khudobin earlier played two games with the Checkers during a conditioning stint in late December.
The Canes begin a four-game homestand Friday against the St. Louis Blues -- their final stretch before the break for the 2014 Olympics. Khudobin is expected to start against the Blues.
There was one tweak to the lines during Thursday's practice. Pat Dwyer, who has missed the past four games with an upper-body injury, was on Manny Malahotra's line with Nathan Gerbe. Tuomo Ruutu, Drayson Bowman, Radek Dvorak and Riley Nash all worked on the fourth line.
Eric Staal was at center with Jiri Tlusty and Alex Semin, and Jordan Staal at center with Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm.
There were no changes in the defensive pairs: Justin Faulk-Andrej Sekera, John-Micheal Liles-Ron Hainsey and Jay Harrison-Mike Komisarek. Brett Bellemore was the extra defensemen.
No shortage of goalies, either. Justin Peters also was at practice, giving the Canes three on the ice.