The news Wednesday came unexpectedly: Cam Ward out with a concussion, and the Carolina Hurricanes recalling goalie Daniel Altshuller from Charlotte.
Ward was the Canes’ starting goalie Friday against the Vancouver Canucks. He served as the backup Sunday against Pittsburgh and was at practice Tuesday at PNC Arena.
But the Canes announced Wednesday that Ward had been placed on injured reserve and Altshuller being called up from the Checkers of the AHL. Ward is out indefinitely as he goes through the NHL concussion protocol.
Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis said no one was sure when Ward suffered the concussion. Ward took a hard shot to the top of his mask from Phil Kessel of the Penguins in a Jan. 12 game at PNC Arena – the impact sending the mask flying – and Francis said Ward may have been hurt in a collision against the Vancouver Canucks.
“He had a stiff neck after the Vancouver game,” Francis said. “He had some dizziness in practice (Tuesday) and we had him tested and the concussion was diagnosed (Wednesday) morning.”
Canes coach Bill Peters said last week Ward was experiencing soreness in his neck after the Pittsburgh game at PNC Arena and said Ward would be a game-time decision for the Vancouver game. But Ward then played as the Canes fell 3-2 in overtime.
Eddie Lack was the starting goalie Sunday in the Canes’ 5-0 road loss to the Penguins. The Canes were off Monday and returned to practice Tuesday.
“It was something that came on and got worse as it went along,” Peters said of Ward’s condition. “Hopefully it’s not a long-term thing.”
Ward had settled into a nice groove, going 7-3-2 since the beginning of December as the Canes moved into playoff contention in the NHL’s Eastern Conference. Lack also has played better of late, going 5-2-2 in his last nine starts.
“Any time you have an injury it’s a setback,” Francis said. “As a team, as an organization, we know that’s going to happen over an 82-game season and we just keep going forward. Eddie steps in and guys respond and we do what we have to do.”
Lack said Wednesday he is prepared to take over as the No. 1 goalie until Ward returns. A year ago with Vancouver, he stepped in for injured goalie Ryan Miller and helped the Canucks reach the playoffs.
“From what I understand it’s a minor injury to (Ward) and he’ll be back soon,” Lack said. “I look forward to playing and doing my best. I wasn’t happy with the Pittsburgh game but it’s an opportunity for me to bounce back.”
The Canes (20-19-8) have four games remaining before the NHL All-Star Game break, and the first two are a back-to-back – at Toronto, then home Friday against the New York Rangers. Lack won both ends of a back-to-back set on the road Dec. 11-12 against Anaheim and Arizona.
“We’ll just take it day by day and I’m not taking it longer than the Toronto game,” Lack said.
Altshuller, 21, has a 9-1-1 record with a 1.71 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in 11 games for Charlotte this season. Before joining the Checkers, he appeared in 14 games for the Florida Everblades of the ECHL, leading the league in goals-against average (1.58), save percentage (.941) and shutouts (3), while compiling a 10-3-0 record.
“He’s had an incredible year,” Francis said. “He’ll come up and back up Eddie and we’ll go from there.”