Carolina goaltender Cam Ward isn’t overly concerned with stopping fellow rookie Sidney Crosby. It’s Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux that the first-year netminder will have his focus on when the Hurricanes host the Penguins.
Ward, the 25th overall pick in the 2002 draft, will make his first NHL start when the Hurricanes play their home opener against Pittsburgh.
Ward replaces Martin Gerber, who is recovering from a pulled muscle near his left hip.
“I think obviously this is a great opportunity,” Ward said after practice Thursday. “It’s an opportunity to make my first NHL start against one of the greatest players ever.”
Since returning to the league as a player in the 2000-01 season, Lemieux has played six games against the Hurricanes, but has yet score against them. He is 17 goals shy of 700 for his career.
Ward stepped in for the injured Gerber and stopped 10 of 11 shots in the final period of Carolina’s season-opening 5-2 loss to defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
Carolina also had to watch a crowd of more than 22,000 celebrate a banner-raising ceremony.
“We knew it would be tough playing in front of these fans, but it’s frustrating because it’s the worst we’ve executed since we got back together,” Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. “Still, it’s a long season.”
Now the Hurricanes have to face a Pittsburgh team that is expected to have one of the league’s more potent offenses.
Crosby—the top overall pick in the 2005 draft and a player the NHL is resting much of its future on—is still looking for his first NHL goal. He had one assist in a 5-1 season-opening loss at New Jersey on Wednesday.
“I’m in the NHL, so obviously I’m happy,” said Crosby, the league’s most prized prospect since Lemieux. “But you play to win.”
Crosby also said he didn’t feel out of place “for even one second” during his debut.
“You have to enjoy it—it only happens once in your life,” Crosby said of the advice his father, Sid, gave to him. “But I’ve always played to win.”
STANDINGS (through Oct. 5): Penguins - 1 point, 4th place, 4 PB, Atlantic Division. Hurricanes - 2 points, 2nd place (tied), Southeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Penguins - Mark Recchi, 1 goal; Crosby and John LeClair, 1 assists; Recchi, Crosby and LeClair, 1 points; Brooks Orpik, 4 PIM. Hurricanes - Eric Staal and Radim Vrbata, 1 goals and 1 points; Erik Cole, Mike Commodore, Justin Williams, Matt Cullen, Andrew Hutchinson, Bret Hedican and Rod Brind’Amour, 2 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Oct. 5): Penguins - Power play: 9.0 percent (1 for 11), 19th in NHL. Penalty killing: 75.0 percent (2 for 8), 25. Hurricanes - Power play: 0.0 percent (0 for 0), 28th. Penalty killing: 83.3 percent (1 for 6), 20.
GOALTENDERS: Penguins - Jocelyn Thibault (0-1-0, 0 SO, 5.00 GAA); Hurricanes - Gerber (0-1-0, 0, 6.00); Ward (0-0-0, 0, 3.00).
2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Hurricanes, 2-1-1.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Penguins - 0-1-0-0 on the road; Hurricanes - 0-0-0-0 at home.