Justin Peters will be in net tonight as the Canes begin the critical stretch of the season against the San Jose Sharks.
Cam Ward, who has started the past 14 games, has a "little slight tweak" according to Canes coach Kirk Muller. The "tweak" is not serious, Muller said, and Ward is expected to start Saturday in the road game against the New York Islanders.
"We'll give (Ward) another day to recover and we've got to get (Peters) in anyway," Muller said. "It's a good opportunity. We've got 16 games coming up in the month of March and I don't think (Ward) is going to play all of them, so we need him to bounce in here and give us a good game.
"He's ready, he's excited. It should be good for him."
Peters has just two starts since being recalled Dec. 14 from the Charlotte Checkers (AHL). He stopped a career-high 48 shots against Pittsburgh on Dec. 27 in a 4-2 loss, and allowed five goals on 36 shots in a 5-2 loss Jan. 7 at Nashville.
Ward has had some back issues in the past but Muller was not more specific on the nature of the "tweak." Ward sat out practices Wednesday and Thursday but was at today's morning skate at the RBC Center.
"He'll be fine," Muller said. "He's going to get loaded up here again, so he'll be ready to go."
The Canes play seven of the next eight at home. If they're to move out of last place in the NHL East and squeeze into the playoff picture, they'll need to make the most of it -- 15 of the last 17 games of the regular season are on the road.
"If we're going to make the playoffs we need to win almost all of these games, or at least six or seven of the eight," forward Jussi Jokinen said today. "But at the same time we can't look too far ahead. Just go period by period, game by game. We need to be ready to play and play at a high level.
"We've played with a lot of confidence the last month or so. We have to keep it going."
The Canes are 14-12-3 at home this season but 8-2-1 in the past 11. Before leaving on a three-game road trip that ended Monday in Montreal, they gutted out a hardfought 2-1 win over the L.A. Kings.
But despite picking up four of six points on the trip, the Canes are 12 points behind the Florida Panthers, the Southeast Divison leaders. They're 11 points behind eighth-place Toronto in the East.
"We've been pretty confident at home as of late and playing well at home," center Tim Brent said. "I think this home stand has got to be kind of a turning point in our season. We have to string a few wins here together if we want to get back in the mix, because March is a pretty gruelling month."
The Sharks (31-17-7) lead the Pacific Division but are coming off a 6-5 overtime loss at Tampa Bay on Thursday night. Tonight's game is the third in an eight-game road swing for the Sharks.
"The next 10 games, I think we've got four divisional games that are important, four-point type games," Muller said. "People say you don't want to look too far ahead but realistically that (recent) road trip set us up and we've got to take advantage of these home games (and) win our divisional games in the next 10-game segment."