There are only four games on the NHL schedule Monday night, but they feature a couple of intriguing storylines worth watching.
First, in Carolina, former long-time Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward will be making his return as a visiting player for the first time when he is expected to the start for the Chicago Blackhawks. He will be trying to help them snap their seven-game losing streak and get them their first win under new head coach Jeremy Colliton.
Ward did not play when the two teams met in Chicago (a 4-3 Hurricanes win) this past week.
Ward is certain to get a warm welcome, and already did when he first arrived in the arena on Monday.
Ward’s time with the Hurricanes is a complicated one.
On one hand, he spent 13 years as the primary starting goalie for the team. That is, to say the least, a long-time, and there are not many goalies that spend that much with one franchise. So it is always going to be a big deal when — or if — they return as a visiting player. But goaltending was a constant thorn in the Hurricanes’ side during Ward’s time with the team and that is usually what his time there is remembered for to everyone outside of Raleigh.
But, he is still a significant part of the team’s history for helping the Hurricanes win their first and only championship during the 2005-06 season. And he played a huge role in that title.
Ward was a rookie during the 2005-06 season, and even though he only appeared in 28 games during the regular season, he was a rock for the team in the playoffs with a .920 save percentage, picking up 15 of the team’s 16 wins during the postseason. That run included two shutouts, including one in the Stanley Cup Final, as he took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
The Hurricanes only made the playoffs one other time during Ward’s tenure with the team (a trip to the Eastern Conference Final in 2009 when they were swept by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins).
But banners hang forever, and thanks in large part to Ward’s contributions as a rookie the Hurricanes have one.
That should never be forgotten if you are a Hurricanes fan, no matter what happened after that.
The other intriguing game on the Monday schedule is in Anaheim where the Ducks are hosting the NHL-leading Nashville Predators.
The intrigue here isn’t so much with the game itself, because, quite honestly, it looks to be a rather one-sided matchup on paper. Nashville is rolling — again — while the Ducks are going in the complete opposite direction and trending toward the bottom of the league.
For a quick refresher, refer back to this August post from our Sean Leahy highlighting the feud that was continued with this Tweet from Kesler over the summer.
Things really escalated between the two during the 2017 Western Conference Final (which Johansen and the Predators won) and consisted of some back-and-forth trash talk between the two.
Among the highlights:
Johansen to Kesler: “Nobody likes you”
Johansen on Kesler: “I don’t know how you cheer for a guy like that.”
Kesler on Johansen: “He’s not my friend. He’s not going to be my friend. He can say whatever he wants.”
So there is that little backstory.
Kesler, who was limited to just 44 games a season ago due to injury, only played in one of the Ducks’ three games against the Predators so we really have not seen them have a chance to renew their relationship on the ice since that Western Conference Final series.
In the one game they did face each other since then the two spent five minutes on the ice together and, of course, got into a fight late in the second period.
Referees Gord Dwyer and Jake Brenk, as well as linesmen Darren Gibbs and Brian Murphy, will be the ones in charge of trying to maintain order between the two on Monday night.