WASHINGTON -- Canes goalie Anton Khudobin said he has been injured before, but never had an injury like the one this season.
Coming out of net to play the puck against the Phoenix Coyotes, Khudobin caught an edge and suffered an injured ankle. That was on Oct. 13. On Thursday, Khudobin will play his first NHL game since the injury as he starts against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center.
"I've been trying to watch hockey on TV," he said after Thursday's morning skate. "But it's been two and a half months. The first month, it wasn't bothering me much. But when you're watching and watching and watching it's kind of frustrating.
"I'm happy to get back. And I'm happy I had a couple of games in the minors. I'm glad coach (Kirk Muller) gave me the start right now."
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Khudobin, 27, was sent to the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) for a conditioning stint last week and started two games, stopping 77 of 83 shots. In the second, he was named the game's first star after notching 41 saves in a 3-2 victory over Rockford.
"I think it was pretty good to send me down for a couple of games to kind of get me warmed up, restart my brain on how to stop the puck and things like that," he said. "We got the win in the second game, which was most important. That was great and I had fun with the guys."
Khudobin said the first period of his first start was "annoying." But after a couple of shots, he said, he settled into something of a groove and worked his way through the game.
Khudobin said he once had a wrist injury that kept him out more than a month. But the ankle was more bothersome, keeping him out much longer than anyone anticipated.
Khudobin was activated from injured reserve Friday and sent to the Checkers. He played back-to-back games, then recalled Tuesday.
Cam Ward started the New Year's Eve game against the Montreal Canadiens and was the winner in the 5-4 overtime victory. But Muller said Wednesday that Ward was out with a lower-body injury, leaving the goaltending on the Canes' two-game road trip to Khudobin and Justin Peters.
The decision was made to give Khudobin -- who signed a one-year, $800,000 contract as a free agent in July -- the start against Washington. Of this three starts this year for the Canes, the second was against the Caps at the Verizon Center, and Khudobin had 30 saves in a 3-2 victory.
"It's a good team to play against," Khudobin said. "Good rink, good building, loud building. Hopefully we'll get the 'W' and we'll move forward."