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Cam Ward out up to two months with MCL sprain; are the Hurricanes done?

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Well here’s some discouraging news for the Southeast Division leaders:

Jim Rutherford, President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that goaltender Cam Ward has been diagnosed with a third-degree sprain of the medial collateral ligament (MCL). Surgery will not be required for the injury, and he is expected to be out six to eight weeks.

Ward injured his left knee in Sunday’s game against the Florida Panthers, after Jack Skille and Canes defenseman Justin Faulk collided with him in the second period. Dan Ellis took over, made 19 save on 21 shots and led the Canes to the 3-2 win.

Get used to hearing Ellis’s name.

He’s 3-2-0 on the season with a .923 save percentage and a 2.53 GAA, having gone from a tryout contract with the Charlotte Checkers to the backup role with the Hurricanes following Brian Boucher’s trade to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Ellis played 31 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010-2011, but hasn’t played more than 13 in a season since then. He was better than anticipated when Ward couldn’t stop a beach ball earlier this season, and has continued to be solid – outside of the five-spot he yielded to the Lightning on Feb. 23, Ellis hasn’t given up more than two goals in any appearance.

It’s anticipated that Justin Peters will likely get the call-up from the Charlotte Checkers to complete the tandem. From the News & Observer, via Canes GM Jim Rutherford:

“(Peters') development has been very good and he's having his best year as a pro," Rutherford said. "He's had an exceptional year in Charlotte."

… "Obviously it would be very hard to replace Cam 100 percent but we have two very capable goalies," Rutherford said.

Statistically, Ellis and Peters could replicate what Ward’s given the Canes this season: 2.84 GAA and a .908 save percentage.

What they don’t give you are Ward’s workhorse consistency in starting nearly every night, as well as his greatest blessing and curse: Streakiness.

He was terrible to start the season, as were the Hurricanes. Lately, Ward’s turned the corner, and Carolina turned it with him: He won three out of four games, stopping 108 of 116 shots, and was 15-for-15 in the game during which he was injured.

When Ward’s at his best, he can still be one the NHL’s best netminders. His injury timetable has him back for the postseason; smart money’s on Ellis and Peters being enough to get the Hurricanes there, and Rutherford being aggressive enough to address the problem if they’re not.

But the big picture here, as Chris Johnston of Sportsnet notes: Brodeur, Anderson, Theodore, Khabibulin, Harding, Kiprusoff and now Ward all injured.

Hey, good thing hardly any of them stole some other goalie’s job during the lockout, right?

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