Ward, 29, has struggled with injuries of late, playing just 36 games over the last two seasons, including 19 this season. His last outing came on Dec. 31, just six games after he had returned from a previous injury that, according to General Manager Jim Rutherford, may not have been fully healed.
A winner of the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs’ most valuable player in 2006 and an NHL All-Star in 2011, Ward is the Hurricanes’ all-time leader among goaltenders with 450 games played, 220 wins and 21 shutouts. For his NHL career, he holds a 2.76 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.
Based on reports suggesting Ward was scheduled to leave Raleigh on Thursday to join the Checkers for a two-game stint, he is likely to play both of the Checkers games in Lake Erie on Friday and Saturday as long as he feels up to playing on consecutive days. That would mark his first AHL appearance since playing two games for the Lowell Lock Monsters, the Hurricanes’ affiliate at the time, on another conditioning stint during his Stanley Cup season.
In his one full season at the AHL level during the 2004-05 NHL lockout, Ward went 27-17-3 with a 1.99 goals-against average, .937 save percentage and six shutouts for the Lock Monsters while playing alongside fellow 2006 cup winners Eric Staal, Chad LaRose and Mike Commodore.
Of the three goaltenders on Carolina’s roster as of Thursday morning, Ward will become the third to play for the Checkers this season. Justin Peters started in Charlotte before an injury to Anton Khudobin prompted his recall in October, with Khudobin coming down on a conditioning stint to rehab that injury in late December.
Ward will become the third goalie on Charlotte’s current roster, joining John Muse and Mike Murphy. He would also become the ninth goalie to play for the team this season, marking the most of any AHL team this season and extending a franchise record that previously stood at five.