The Carolina Hurricanes' rollercoaster 2013 season will take on a new dimension in the coming months.
Starting goaltender and franchise cornerstone Cam Ward has been diagnosed with an MCL sprain and will miss six to eight weeks.
Per Kevin Allen of the USA Today:
The injury is to his medial collateral ligament, but no surgery will required.
Ward was knocked down when Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk slid into him while defending against a driving Florida Panthers forward Jack Skille. He stayed in the game, but when he stretched to make his next save, he fell to the ice and limped off with assistance.
The report concludes a strange and destructive home-and-home series between the 'Canes and Florida Panthers.
Carolina swept the two games, winning 6-2 Saturday and 3-2 Sunday, but neither team will be too satisfied moving forward. Both teams' starting goaltenders will miss perhaps the rest of the regular season—Panthers starter Jose Theodore left early Saturday night with a knee concern.
Sunday, Dan Ellis was scheduled to start for the Hurricanes, but felt ill and did not. He was forced to enter the game in the second period, however, and made a number of big saves to hold on for the win.
Meanwhile, young up-and-comer Jacob Markstrom was recalled from the AHL by Florida and was supposed to play, but his equipment was lost on his flight from San Antonio. Usual backup Scott Clemmensen started instead, with 39-year-old goaltending coach Rob Tallas serving as the backup for the first period.
At 12-8-1, the Hurricanes lead the the Southeast Division and have just one fewer ROW (regulation/overtime win) than the Eastern Conference leaders.
They'll have to weather an enormous challenge ahead, though.
Dan Ellis has looked sharp in limited action so far this season, going 3-2-0 in seven appearances. His .923 save percentage and 2.53 GAA are both better than Ward's numbers in those categories as well.
Nonetheless, the 32-year-old Ellis is a career backup with a short and inconsistent track record as a nightly starter. He's had some fantastic performances for the 'Canes this year but also a few poor ones; he surrendered five goals in a loss to Tampa Bay in his last start.
Ellis is impeccable with his lateral movement and one of the league's best goaltenders in breakout situations. He has a mere .886 save percentage in power-play situations this year, conversely, and tends to get lost during extended pressure scenarios.
AHL All-Star goaltender Justin Peters is expected to be called up and serve as backup in the coming weeks (h/t Newsobserver.com).