Odd Man Rush: Deja Vu for Ward, Hurricanes

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Carolina Hurricanes learned last season just how devastating the loss of a No. 1 goaltender could be.

After Cam Ward suffered a knee injury in March that caused him to miss the final 27 games of the shortened season, the Hurricanes went from first place in the Southeast Division to a top-five pick in the 2013 draft.

Armed with this knowledge, and the fact that Justin Peters needed a bit more seasoning before being NHL ready, the Hurricanes inked 27-year-old netminder Anton Khudobin this offseason.

Sure, Khudobin didn't have a ton of NHL experience, but his small sample of work was more than adequate, especially after he went 9-4-1 with a 2.32 goals against average in 14 games last season with the Boston Bruins.

So when Ward went down just over four minutes into Thursday's game with the Minnesota Wild, Khudobin was ready for action.

Except he wasn't.

So much for Plan B as Khudobin has been on injured reserve since Oct. 14 because of a lower body injury.

So in again stepped Peters, who was unable to keep the Hurricanes afloat last season while the S.S. Ward was docked. His latest trial got off to a rougher start than an NBC television pilot as he allowed goals on the first two shots he faced in an eventual 3-1 setback.

"They got two quick ones on me right when I got in. I just tried to get my bearings and battle for the boys," said Peters. "Once I got into the game I definitely felt more comfortable. I just tried to prove to myself I'm an NHL goalie and instill that trust into the team."

Carolina announced during the game that Ward will miss 3-to-4 weeks with his lower body injury, which came when he stretched out with his right pad to make a save. The 29-year-old remained on his knees for a few moments before getting to his feet as play continued.

However, following a whistle on an offsides, Ward skated over to the bench and departed.

Any team holds their collective breath when a top goaltender goes down, but the Hurricanes have good reason to be jittery. Last season, Carolina was in first place with a 12-8-1 record and Ward was 9-6-1 with a 2.84 GAA before suffering a knee injury.

Carolina went 7-17-3 the rest of the way.

Peters, a 2004 second-round pick, got the bulk of the work over fellow netminder Dan Ellis, but went just 4-11-1 with a 3.46 GAA and .891 save percentage in 19 games and 16 starts.

It appears it will be the Peters show again as head coach Kirk Muller noted after Thursday's loss that even if Khudobin returned to action following the weekend, when the 'Canes return home from a four-game road trip, he would still need some practice time to get up to speed and probably wouldn't be ready before the end of the week.

The other option for Muller right now is 2008 sixth-round pick Mike Murphy, owner of 36 minutes of NHL action over two previous appearances.

Peters it is.

"Hopefully I can learn from my past experiences," the netminder said after Thursday's game. "I've had some more experience now, which is a positive thing. I had a lot of experience last year. Just go one period at a time, one save at a time and try and instill some trust and confidence in these guys that I'm going to do the job back there."

Unlike last season, the Hurricanes can assume that Ward will be back in action this season. That should leave a little less pressure for Peters, who doesn't need to shoulder the load long term.

Heading into play on Friday, Carolina sat second in the Metropolitan Division. Now it hopes to remain near that spot until Ward can return.

"Hey, this is his opportunity and he's got to find a way to get the job done," Muller said of Peters.

"I'm sure he's going to be excited to show he can play in the NHL."

Not exactly how the Hurricanes drew it up this past offseason.