by Kate Shefte
Cam Ward is the hottest player on the hottest team in the league, and the NHL is finally starting to take notice. Ward was named the first star of the NHL for the month of March, a first-time occurrence for the ‘Canes' starting goaltender and only the second time a Hurricane has earned it since the franchise relocated (the other was Eric Staal in October, 2005.) During that time, Ward posted a 16-6-2 record, a 2.31 goals-against average, a sparkling 9.23 save percentage and two shutouts, all while starting more consecutive games than he ever has during his career. Somebody’s ready to rock the playoffs.
The Hurricanes will meet the Rangers tonight to kick off a four-game homestand. The Rangers are directly below the ‘Canes in seventh place and have played as many games, but have fewer wins, should it come to a tie-breaker. They’re still big, still bad…and yes, they still have Avery. Mr. “Sloppy Seconds” will be back to see if he can get under Ward’s skin this time after getting laid out and shut down when these two teams last met.
A sort of worst-case scenario occurred since the team last played on Saturday, but the outlook isn’t too bad; it just doesn’t leave a lot of margin for error. As the Hurricanes rested comfortably for almost a full week, occasionally taking part in a practice or glancing at the scoreboard, everyone below the team in the standings won at least once. The Flyers and the Devils both went on losing benders, but that can’t be exactly be categorized as “helpful.” These last few games are not a joke, and with four of five of them at home, Caniac Nation needs to be out in full and ready to scream.
The Hurricanes go for a record ninth straight win at home tonight and seventh overall. Cam Ward has started 24 straight games, Matt Cullen (should he return) is going for 800 NHL games played while Rod Brind’Amour scoffs and points out that this is his 1400th NHL game. Joe Corvo is looking for his 200th NHL point
Will the Hurricanes be sluggish after not having played since Saturday? Will Ward know what to do with himself when not being forced to play three games in four nights? Will Avery accessorize his jersey with a summer scarf and large sunglasses, as we all suspect he’s been dying to do for some time? All of these questions and more will be answered tonight.