Cam Ward again will start in goal Tuesday for the Canes against the New York Islanders, coach Paul Maurice said today.
And after that, in the last two games of the regular season?
"We want to try to accomplish two things," Maurice said. "One is win as many games as we possibly can. But I do think it's important Mike Leighton get into a game, because he's been out so long and you never know in the playoffs when you need your goaltender to go in and be prepared.
"But first and foremost is concentrate on where we are right now and do everything we can to prepare Cam for the playoffs, that he feels in a good rhythm, so he's not out too long or plays more games than he needs to. And I guess third on the priority list is we'd like to get Michael into a game so he at least has seen some shots."
With Ward starting the last 26 games, going 18-6-2 and arguably playing as well as any goaltender in the league, Leighton has not been in a game since Feb. 24, at Ottawa.
"I've never felt better, quite honestly," Ward said today. "That's a credit to the coaching staff. Despite us playing so often, he's been able to give us some timely time off and let us relax and stay fresh.
"But I would never have thought it has been 26 in a row. It just feels like another game. And a big reason for that is the time off."
And there still is something important to play for with three games remaining in the regular season — home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. That could keep Ward in goal.
"We've got three games left here and you look at the standings and we've got a chance to try to get home ice," Ward said. "It's important we buckle down these last three."