Cam Ward will be in net Friday for the Carolina Hurricanes’ home opener against the New York Rangers, just as the goalie has so many times in the past.
Canes general manager Ron Francis signed Ward to a contract extension after last season, expressing confidence in the veteran goalie while also paying him less money to stay. The belief was that Ward and Eddie Lack would team to give the Canes steady goaltending this season.
After six games, that hasn’t happened. The Canes (1-3-2) are 29th in goals-against average (4.00) and last in save percentage (.853), a product both of some defensive dysfunction in front of the goalies but also the goalies not making enough timely saves.
When the Detroit Red Wings jumped to a 3-0 first-period lead Tuesday, the third goal coming when the puck glanced off Canes defenseman Brett Pesce, Ward gave his paddle a fling in disgust. Later, still angered, he swatted the puck into the netting above the glass, incurring a delay-of-game penalty.
“Sometimes frustrations boil over,” Ward said. “At certain times it’s better to release those frustrations than let it boil within. I’ve been the recipient of a few unfortunate bounces, going off some bodies, but the main thing is you compete and you show that fire and that competitiveness.
“We know that we need to be better in certain areas but know Eddie and I need to be better in certain areas, too. You can’t finger-point at one or two individuals. It’s a team game and you have to have everyone on the same page. It’s an overall team game.”
— The Canes will need a good overall game Friday to beat the Rangers (5-2-0), who have won 14 of the past 16 games in the series. Ward is 11-15-4, with a 2.58 goals-against average, in 31 career games against the Rangers.
In the Rangers’ net: Henrik Lundqvist. He’s 23-10-1 with a 2.09 GAA in 34 career games against the Canes.
-- Jeff Skinner, who missed the Wings game with a “middle-body” injury, was at Friday’s morning skate. Canes coach Bill Peters said Skinner would go through warmups before a final decision was made on him playing, although the feeling was that Skinner would play.
The lines Friday had Skinner back on the Victor Rask line with Lee Stempniak, Jordan Staal at center with Sebastian Aho and Joakim Nordstrom, Elias Lindholm centering Teuvo Teravainen and Phil Di Giuseppe, and Jay McClement at center with Viktor Stalberg and Bryan Bickell.
With the Canes fianlly off the road after the first six games and able to make the last change at home, Peters has Ron Hainsey with Justin Faulk, Jaccob Slavin with Brett Pesce and Noah Hanifin with Klas Dahlbeck on the back end.
“We can control some matches and control the pace of the game a little bit (by) how quick we change off the bench,” Peters said.
— Because of the World Cup of Hockey and the yearly scheduling conflicts with the N.C. State Fair, the Canes are the last NHL team to play a home opener.
“It is what it is. Hopefully everybody enjoyed their State Fair food,” Ward said, smiling. “It’s been like that every single year. It can be tough but it can be good at the same time. We’re obviously not pleased with our record but we’ve shown some good signs throughout the road games and we need to be consistent in a 60-minute effort.”
Scoring goals, he said, was a good sign. Not so pleasing?
“We need to tighten up and try to limit those Grade A opportunities,” Ward said. “Just play a full 60 minutes. It’s definitely within the locker room.”
Hanifin, who will play his second home opener with the Canes, said better defensive play in the Carolina end can quickly change things.
“Once we buckle down in the defensive zone, I think we’re going to start winning a lot of games,” Hanifin said.