Cam Ward is healthy again. The Canes goalie has put in two games with the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL and put in a full practice Monday with the Canes at PNC Arena.
In Wards mind, he's ready to play for the Canes again. Or as he said Monday, "I'm ready to rock and roll whenever they give me that opportunity."
Ward has not been in net for the Canes since New Year's Eve, when he was a part of the big comeback against the Canadiens. He soon was on the injured list and missed all of January, as Anton Khudobin took over as the workhorse in net and gave the Canes consistently good efforts.
"Khudobin is playing exceptionally well and given this team a chance to win every night," Ward said. "I'm just going to be patient and wait for that next opportunity, and when I get it take advantage of it and try to help this team win."
Ward, after a brief conditioning stint with the Checkers, got a lot of work Monday along with Khudobin. Canes coach Kirk Muller did not commit to a starter for Tuesday's game against the Winnipeg Jets or indicate what his plans for Ward might be in the final week before the Olympic break.
"We're just game by game right now," Muller said. "We'll make a decision tomorrow who will be the starter. The nice thing is that (Ward) is healthy now and he had a couple of good games and is ready to go, which is a great thing."
Ward missed much of last year's shortened season with a knee injury. He was ready for the start of training camp and in top shape, only to suffer a lower-body injury Oct. 24.
Ward was out for 10 games, returning Nov. 18 against Boston. He was in net for 11 games before again being sidelined by the lower-body injury.
Ward said he "rushed back" from the initial injury because Khudobin was out with an ankle injury and Justin Peters was playing a lot of games. But that was not very wise, he said, in that he was "back on the shelf" again in a few weeks.
"I'm not going to lie. It's been a struggle," Ward said of the season.
Ward played back-to-back games for the Checkers on Friday and Saturday against the Lake Erie Monsters, stopping 59 of 63 shots. The Checkers lost the first game 1-0, then won the second 5-3.
In summing up the AHL conditioning stint, Ward said, "I got some game action. It's not something I had to do but something I wanted to do. The reality is I haven't been able to play a lot of hockey. I went down there and put in a couple of good games and felt comfortable out there."
Ward noted that good NHL teams need two goaltenders, especially in the stretch run of a season. Of teaming with Khudobin, he said, "We'll try to do it together and move forward."