It didn’t seem as though the goaltending situation in the Carolina Hurricanes’ organization could get much crazier than it did towards the end of last season. It took less than a month for history to repeat itself in 2013-14.
Early in the Hurricanes’ game against Minnesota on Thursday night, Cam Ward suffered a lower-body injury and exited the game immediately, giving way to Justin Peters. Shortly thereafter, the team announced that it expects Ward to miss three to four weeks and that it will recall Mike Murphy from Charlotte in time for Friday’s game in Colorado.
With Anton Khudobin already out with a lower-body injury of his own, that leaves each of Charlotte’s top two goalies from the start of the season, Peters and Murphy, in the NHL. It also leaves the Checkers shorthanded for a three-in-three set that starts Friday in Grand Rapids.
The situation is reminiscent to what occurred late last season, when Ward and Dan Ellis both suffered injuries in Carolina. As a result, Rob Madore, who started the season as the Checkers’ fourth option, became their playoff starter despite not making his AHL debut until late March.
John Muse, who spent parts of the last two seasons with the Checkers and only recently rejoined the team on Wednesday, now becomes the only goalie on the roster, leaving the team quite thin at a less-than-ideal time. This weekend’s three-in-three is merely the start of a six-games-in-nine-days segment that marks its busiest nine-day stretch of the season and the longest road trip in team history in terms of consecutive days away from home.
With travel required following each game of the trip, the Checkers initially signed Muse to provide an experienced option alongside Murphy, with coach Jeff Daniels citing the workload as being too much for one goaltender. Daniels will now be in the market for someone similar, though short notice could make that difficult.
Options for the Checkers include Jesse Deckert, an offseason signing at the AHL level, who they recently assigned to Florida mostly due to his lack of game action this season. They could also bring in another goalie from the ECHL level on a professional tryout contract, just as they did with Muse.
Once the Checkers make it through this weekend, it’s possible that help will arrive. According to the Raleigh News and Observer, the Hurricanes expect Khudobin to resume skating next week.
Murphy, 24, has a 1-2-0 record with a 3.81 goals-against average in three starts for the Checkers this season. He has played two games with Carolina, both during the 2011-12 season, at which time he set an NHL record by becoming the first player to suffer his first NHL loss before allowing his first NHL goal.