‘Canes to send Ward to AHL for conditioning stint

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On Thursday, Carolina head coach Kirk Muller confirmed that goalie Cam Ward will head to AHL Charlotte as part of his rehab from a lower-body injury.

Ward, who has been sidelined since Dec. 31, has missed Carolina’s last 13 games with the ailment and lost his grasp on the club’s No. 1 gig as well. Backup Anton Khudobin has performed admirably in relief and has been Carolina’s goalie of record in every game since Ward got hurt, going 9-4-0 over that stretch.

With Khudobin in goal, the ‘Canes also jumped into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

We wrote about Carolina’s questions in goal last week. With Khudobin, Ward and Justin Peters all currently with the team, the ‘Canes are in the unenviable position of carrying a three-headed goalie monster, which is always difficult in terms of logistics.

There’s also this, from the Raleigh News & Observer:

Is Khudobin, two years younger than Ward, a better long-term solution in goal? And does Ward’s contract, with a $6.3 million salary-cap hit through 2015-16, still make financial sense given his recent history of injuries and inconsistency?

It’s not a decision the Hurricanes have to make now, but it is one they have to start thinking about now. Khudobin will be a free agent this summer, and one of the most sought-after of the bunch if he continues to play like this. The Hurricanes can’t afford to re-sign Khudobin and keep Ward. At the moment, with Ward out, they’ll ride Khudobin as far as he can take them.

We welcomed Ward to the trade rumor mill two weeks ago, when his name surfaced as a potential trade target (at the time it involved Edmonton, but the Oilers went in a different direction, jettisoning Devan Dubnyk and acquiring Ben Scrivens.)

Ward, a former Conn Smythe Trophy winner, has struggled this season (6-7-5, .895 save percentage) but his career .910 save percentage in 450 appearances could garner some interest.

And if he does garner interest, one wonders if Carolina will make a move.

Peters, like Khudobin, is also a UFA at season’s end and could be retained as a cost-effective backup, much like what Khudobin is this season on his one-year, $800,000 deal.

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.