Hurricanes’ Ward is ready to come back and contend

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

RALEIGH, N.C. – Cam Ward came off the ice at Raleigh Center Ice on Friday sweating, but not looking tired or worn out after an informal on-ice session with a handful of Carolina Hurricanes teammates.

It was the second time they took to the ice during the week with more daily skates scheduled for the coming weeks.

Ward knows the intensity of each session will increase as more players return to town to prepare for training camp and the upcoming season.

It’s now been four years straight during which Carolina has come up short in earning the right to compete for the Stanley Cup in the postseason.

Making the playoffs is a point of emphasis to for the team’s starting goaltender who hasn’t played a game since last March after suffering a season-ending third-degree MCL knee sprain.

Having maintained a steady and consistent regimen in rehabbing with the team’s head athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach Peter Friesen, Ward is ready to get the job done.

As the Hurricanes have retooled their roster and brought in more experienced, NHL-ready role players to support the team’s go-to players like Ward, captain Eric Staal, Alexander Semin, Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, and Tuomo Ruutu, the expectation for success coming from the team’s backbone between the pipes is a high one.

“Obviously, we have a strong foundation here,” Ward said.

“It’s about having everybody buying into the system and having a winning attitude. Obviously missing the playoffs four years in a row – clearly enough is enough. I think the leaders are going to lead by example with the fire and motivation, and come this camp, we’re not messin’ around. This is a big year for us, and there’s gonna’ be no excuses.”

Those are strong words coming from an individual who carries the heaviest burden and is literally the final line of defense and key to success.

The confidence with which he makes that statement shows the drive and determination he has exhibited in setting the example himself.

“I feel very good,” Ward said.

“I feel with the help of Peter Friesen, he’s really led me in the right direction in my conditioning and my rehab with my knee injury. I was able to maintain it throughout the entire summer and I feel really good with where I’m at right now. I feel like I’ve done everything that I possibly can to make sure that my body’s gonna’ be feelin’ the best it can feel, come September.”

Ward’s offseason training regimen has included on and off-ice conditioning, with the latter being the more predominant.

“Strength and conditioning – it’s kinda’ all in one – a bit of everything,” Ward continued.

The 2006 Conn Smythe trophy winner knows what effort and attitude is needed to contend for and win the Stanley Cup.

After going through what he has, the look in his eyes relays the message just as much as the actual words that come out of his mouth do.

He’s ready to go.

“Every summer I go back and try and come back in the best shape, and this by far is the best I’ve ever been, as far as shape-wise. It’s given me the confidence that my knee’s gonna’ be okay, and that I’ve done everything I can to try and have a healthy season.”

Having the right attitude has played a major role in Ward feeling as healthy and in shape as he’s ever been at this point of the year with the first day of training camp approaching in under a month.

“You learn as the years go along,” Ward said.

“Like I said, Pete’s really motivated me and given me the drive. I told him that as soon as my injury happened and I started my rehab, I said, ‘you won’t find me complaining once; just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.’ I’ve been able to upkeep that part of the deal and seeing reward because of it.”

Seems like those are the words that head coach Kirk Muller will want to hear from every player in the dressing room in September and every day throughout the season if Ward’s expectation to make the playoffs is to come to fruition.