The Carolina Hurricanes have been dealt a serious blow. Stanley Cup-winning starting goaltender Cam Ward sprained the MCL in his left knee after a collision with teammate Justin Faulk in Sunday’s win over the Florida Panthers.
According to Terrell Williams of Hurricanes.com, the team does not believe surgery is required, but the current estimate for recovery time will consist of almost the entire remaining lockout-shortened regular season:
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.
This is a devastating injury and an even harder hit to a team that is currently leading the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference by four points.
While backup Dan Ellis is more than capable of being a starting goalie in the NHL (which he proved with both Nashville and Tampa Bay), whether or not he can help carry the team into postseason contention like Ward is an entirely different story.
Ward had a goals against average of 2.84 in 17 games and had amassed a save percentage of .908, good enough to help the team go 9-6-1.
However, as talented as Ward is, Ellis has played very well in his chances this season and he is a viable replacement.
Ellis has only played in seven games in 2013 (started five), but has a 3-2-0 record with a GAA of 2.53 and a save percentage of .923. That’s impressive for a backup and a welcome sign for a player that will now be the unquestioned starter for the next six-to-eight weeks.
Carolina will need its offensive units to step up to take the pressure off the backup goaltender as he makes the mental transition to starter, and the defensive unit must play the best it has all season to protect him.
The Hurricanes are still a very talented team, but their chances of making the playoffs rest on the shoulders of Ellis now.
For more updates on Cam Ward's injury, check back as news continues to break.