Canes goaltender Cam Ward has been named the NHL's First Star for the month of March, the league announced today.
"I think it's a great honor," Ward said. "I think it's nice to be recognized, but when you look at it the most important thing is winning hockey games.
"We've been able to get ourselves on a roll and set ourselves up for hopefully a playoff position."
Ward had a 10-1-2 record in March and has won his last six games as the Canes moved to fifth in the Eastern Conference. He had a 1.98 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage, starting each of the team’s 13 games in March.
Ward is only the third player in franchise history to be named the NHL's player of the month and just the second since the team relocated. Eric Staal received the award in October 2005, and Mike Rogers was named in December 1980 when the team was the Hartford Whalers.
Ward has started the last 24 games — a personal best — and ranks third in the league with 36 wins, with five shutouts. He allowed two goals or fewer in nine of the March games and had 30 or more saves in six.
"I've got to credit the team," Ward said. "The team has played a lot better defensively in front of me. I've gotten a lot of help from (goaltending coach) Tom Barrasso and obviously the opportunity to play by (coach) Paul Maurice.
"I'm enjoying it. I'm enjoying that opportunity and trying to make the best of it."
Ward's last win was personally satisfying. The Canes topped the New Jersey Devils 2-1 Saturday with Martin Brodeur in the opposite net. Brodeur recently became the NHL career leader in wins by a goaltender, passing Patrick Roy, and Ward has long called Brodeur one of his heroes.
"It's always going to be a treat for me to be able to play on the same ice as Brodeur," he said. "There are so many good goaltenders in this league, but you look at it as a challenge for yourself.
"It's pretty easy to stay mentally sharp knowing the quality of goaltender you're playing up against on the other end."