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Ward to start Tuesday and then ...

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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."

 

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Nice to see Wardo

Getting some Vezina "Honorable Mentions" in some sports columns. I really think he should be a finalist...

Strategy is key

While I agree that Ward has been the key to a winning streak, it is also important to keep Leighton sharp(?). My concern is the playing style of Leighton vs Ward. I get really nervous when Leighton is tending the goal because he tends to leave his post, while Ward is always close to that goal. Do we really want to take the risk of resting Ward to play Leighton so he can "play"? I think we should play it safe and let Ward start to secure each win. Rest him between each game, give him the massages, proper dietary meals and support his health and talents for all he is worth, which is a Hell of a lot!

Look at it

Islanders, Sabres, and Devils.

Why not play Leighton against the Isles and use our number one against the two better teams...

Games

Give him Tuesday & Thursday and Leighton Sunday; no one likes playing sunday afternoons.

Last game

...is Saturday, not Sunday, but otherwise I agree. :)

All I know is

That I am Very,Very,Very happy, I am NOT the coach ! As it would seem that in a case such as this, there (for some fans) NOT a right answer to the problem. But In my humble opinion, what Mo will do makes sense. Why ?? What if for some reason Ward ( God forbid) were to get hurt. Leighton will have to step in and fill in the gap! No ? After all, there really is nothing but "air" to keep from anyone, on any team from getting hurt, now is there ?

Go Canes !!

Wardo got the team where

Wardo got the team where they are today, why not go for the juggler and try and secure home ice advantage with a 4th seed? Philly has to play some tough teams this week, 4th place is still in our sights...play Ward on Tuesday and Thursday and then perhaps let Leighton have that last game in New Jersey if fourth place is out of reach by the weekend...

What to do?

First of all, Mo and Tom deserve a lot of credit for the way they have managed Ward's workload over the past 26 games. The fact that Cam has played that much over the last two month's and still feels great is incredible.

I'm glad they still have something to play for over the last three games. I would hate to see an emotional let down leading into the playoffs.

How they handle Ward/Leighton during these games is a great question and I'm not sure I know what the answer is. Ward definitely needs to start the last game against New Jersey (a possible 1st round match up). Then again the other two are against non-playoff teams (no offence to Buffalo who still have a mathematical chance) so you don't want to miss an opportunity for two points towards home ice advantage. Also, I think Ward has had plenty of rest lately with a lighter schedule the past couple of weeks. I also remember the importance of the backup goalie in the 02 & 06 cup runs. Although, this team is much different than either of those. 2002 was not a great team and we simply rode the clutching and grabbing along with game-stealing goaltending to the cup finals. 2006, Gerber was struggling leading into the playoffs. Leading into the playoffs this year, Ward is at the top of his game and this team is playing terrific two-way hockey.

So I guess my vote would be to keep playing Ward to make a run for 4th. Hopefully there is a game that the Canes put away early and you put Leighton in for some action.

Who would of thought two month's ago, we would have this dilemma?

While our backup goalie was

While our backup goalie was important in 2006, look at it from the other side.  Roloson had started most of the Oilers games after he was traded there and all of the playoff games and gets injured in Game 1 of the Finals.  In comes Conklin, miscommunication between him and Jason Smith and Brind'Amour pots the game winner.

I can't see resting Ward on Thursday.  To me the ideal would have been rest tomorrow, play Thursday and Saturday.  However, he's had 2 days off since the last game and will have at least 3 days off after the last regular season game.  So maybe he starts and Leighton gets 2 periods?

Great point

about Roloson. A simple miscommunication can derail a playoff series. Leighton has been getting a ton of pucks in practice, but he needs to get in a game or 2 before the playoffs. The way the team is playing I firmly belive they could clamp down and pull out a win with Leights in net. I mean, the team defense has helped Wardo. Would the same not hold true for Leighton?

And to do a little re-treading: Kudos to the coaching staff for the way they have managed the workload for everyone, most notably Wardo.

On a different note-didn't see Ruutu or Corvo at practice today...anyone know what's up with that?

Can't say I disagree

All valid points.  The need for Leighton to get some game action vs. too much rest for Ward. 

If Ward takes one of the next three games off it will mean he will have only played 5 games in a 3-week span.  In the previous 3-week's, he played 11.  Enough games to keep in sharp?

I also agree that it would be nice to see Leighton play now with the team playing so much better in front of him.  One of Leighton's biggest problems this year has been rebound control.  But with the forwards working well to take them away, I believe he would have a much better fate.

Whatever the coaches decide, I believe will be the best decision.  They have made great decisions regarding the goalies thus far so there is no need to doubt them now.

While I did think that Ward

While I did think that Ward was being played too much, at this point the key is to keep him sharp. I'd give him Tuesday off then play him in the final 2 games. If not, then split the next 2 games and play him in the final. Leighton can do the job and the team can still get to 4th though I think they will actually finish 5th or 6th.

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About the blogger

A Raleigh native, Chip has worked at the N&O since 1979 and is the Canes beat writer. He can be reached at chip.alexander@newsobserver.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @ice_chip.
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