RALEIGH—Cam Ward won't be minding the Canes' net for a while.
In this lockout-shortened schedule, that means he could return sometime within the last couple weeks of the regular season that ends on April 27.
Meanwhile, Carolina has won three straight and looked good doing it. Going into tonight's home tilt with the Buffalo Sabres, the division-leading Canes have been bolstered by the almost simultaneous return of forwards Jeff Skinner and Tim Brent and defenders Tim Gleason, Jamie McBain and Joni Pitkanen.
Dan Ellis inherits the goalmouth for now. Ellis is 3-2-1 with a 2.53 goals-against average during his first season in Carolina. Justin Peters has scooted up the highway from the Charlotte Checkers' crease to back up Ellis. Peters has a middling 11-11-3 record with a 3.23 GAA in 28 career NHL games over the last three seasons.
It's a stiff test for the Canes who have been making a move to put distance between themselves and the other Southeast Division teams. Sunday's win over the Panthers was Carolina's first divisional win of the season in six games. Their homestand continues this week with visits from Montreal on Thursday and New Jersey on Saturday before three straight divisional games next week.