Ward to start in Hurricanes season-opener against Islanders

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

RALEIGH, N.C. – The suspense ended on Thursday when Carolina Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters named Cam Ward as the starting goaltender who would face the New York Islanders on Friday.

Up to that point, Peters had been tight-lipped on whether Ward or Anton Khudobin would get the nod to play in the team’s season and home-opener at PNC Arena.

“Cam Ward’s gonna’ start,” Peters said after practice.

“I talked to Cam this morning. We like both our goaltenders and we’re gonna’ need both our goaltenders, but we gotta’ name a starter for Game 1 and it’s gonna’ be Cam Ward, and we’ll just go from there.”

After both netminders played through injury in 2013-2014, it was Khudobin who came out on top as the team’s key performer in net.

The Russian keeper, who missed 31 games due to an ankle injury suffered last October, eventually posted a career-best 19-14-1 record in 36 games played with a 2.30 goals against average and set a single-season franchise record .926 save percentage.

Ward also missed significant time (23 games) during the season due to a groin injury, and couldn’t develop the consistency he needed to help Carolina win more games and ended the season with a 10-12-6 record, 3.06 goal against average and .898 save percentage in 30 games played.

Coming into this season’s training camp, Peters made it clear that the starting spot was up for grabs and that both netminders would be considered according to their performance throughout the preseason, along with input and feedback provided by goaltending coach David Marcoux.

“He had a real good summer,” Peters continued in talking of Ward’s selection.

“He’s healthy, so for me, the biggest thing is he’s healthy, he had a good summer. He came in here and played real well – confidence, talking – was good in the preseason.”

While both goalkeepers played in three preseason games, splitting time with 150 minutes apiece, Ward finished with a 1-1 record, 2.80 goals against average, and .887 save percentage, whereas Khudobin ended up 0-2 with a 4.00 goals against average and .872 save percentage.

“Anton was right there with him, too,” Peters continued.

“It could have went either way, but we had to make a decision. We’re pleased with the guy we’ve got startin’ tomorrow.”

When asked of Khudobin’s reaction to the decision, Peters indicated that he hadn’t talked to him and that Marcoux was talking to him.

“That’s how we’re gonna’ do it,” Peters said.

“Dave’s talkin’ to him and that’s how we’re gonna’ do it with our goaltenders. The goalies themselves are gonna’ know the day before. We’ll talk to the starter and the other guy will know.”

Peters indicated that selecting the starting goalie throughout the season would be a game-to-game process that he and Marcoux would follow.

“We don’t wanna’ paint ourselves in the corner and say, ‘hey, we’re playin’ back-to-back, we gotta’ split, we gotta’ do this, we gotta’ do that’,” Peters said.

“We’re just gonna’ reevaluate, reassess after each and every game and make sure the guy who starts the next game knows the night before.”

When asked about the decision, Ward was appreciative of the opportunity to start another season-opener in Carolina while beginning his 10th NHL season.

“I wanted to have a solid training camp with a fresh mindset and fortunately things have gone well,” Ward said.

“I look forward to get off to a good start Friday.”