Cam Ward

‘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.

Watch the Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp tribute video

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Over the years, the Chicago Blackhawks have been forced to let some important players leave to keep their core together, which ultimately meant parting ways with Patrick Sharp.

The talented winger now wears a Dallas Stars jersey, so Blackhawks fans must face the reality of watching Sharp ply his trade for a formidable Central Division opponent.

Even if that might feel awkward, Blackhawks fans gave Sharp (and Johnny Oduya) a warm reception in Chicago on Thursday.

CSNChicago.com provides video of that ovation, which you can see in the clip above.

The Stars currently lead the Blackhawks 4-2, thanks in large part to Patrick … Eaves.

Wild must overcome Alex Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick

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Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

Bylsma believes league will look at Gudas’ hit on Catenacci

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Rugged Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas may get in trouble with the league once again.

At least, it will be that way if Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma has his way regarding Gudas’ five-minute charging major hit on Daniel Catenacci.

“I think there’s no question it’s head hit,” Bylsma said, according to the Buffalo News’ John Vogl. ” … I know the league will look at that hit and deal with it.”

As far as the injury portion of possible suspension considerations go:

Marcus Foligno‘s analysis of Gudas was … well just check it out.

The Flyers ended up winning 5-1. Gudas was a busy man overall, racking up 17 penalty minutes.

Fight video: Patrice Bergeron vs. Blake Wheeler (seriously)

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Regular Selke winner Patrice Bergeron can do it all on the ice, it seems. Apparently that means he’ll even drop the gloves.

That was the unlikely scene during Thursday’s Boston Bruins – Winnipeg Jets skirmish, as Bergeron fought fellow finesse forward Blake Wheeler.

Perhaps unusual feisty behavior was just in the air, as Tyler Myers squared off with Matt Beleskey.

(Not as unlikely, but still.)