For the 12th straight time, Ward earns the nod in net for Hurricanes home opener

Longest-tenured player looks to snap himself and team out of funk

Walter Tychnowicz—USA TODAY Sports
Edmonton Oilers left winger Anton Slepyshev (42) watches as the puck streak past Carolina Hurricanes center Victor Rask (49) while Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward (30) battles for the puck during the third period at Rogers Place. Oilers won the game 3-2.

RALEIGH — When the Carolina Hurricanes play the New York Rangers in their home opener at PNC Arena tonight, it will mark the 12 straight season Cam Ward will be in the net.Ward has won just 35 of 82 decisions in his career in October, including an 0-2-1 start to this season. His frustrations boiled over Tuesday in Detroit when he smashed his stick on the goal post after a Dylan Larkin pass deflected off Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce and pushed the Red Wings lead to 3-0.”I’ve been kind of the recipient of some unfortunate bounces in the first few games, pucks deflecting in off bodies,” Ward said. “But sometimes it’s good to get it out instead of letting it boil within. Never am I pleased with smashing a stick, but I think the main thing is you compete and you move forward. As much as you’d like to take things back you can’t, you just get ready for the next one.”Ward did bounce back, playing well the balance of the game. But the 3-0 hole was too big of a hole to climb out of, and Carolina ended their road trip a disappointing 1-3-2.His performance was good enough to earn him the nod tonight.”Wardo will start tonight,” coach Bill Peters said succinctly at the pregame skate. Henrik Lundqvist (4-2, 2.35, .907) will start for the Rangers. He is 23-10-1 in his career against the Hurricanes.Home openers haven’t been kind to Ward. The 32-year-old goalie is 2-6-3 with a 3.23 goals-against average and .893 save percentage in those 11 starts, and he hasn’t won one since Oct. 10, 2008. His numbers have been poor in recent years: he’s allowed four or more goals in four of the last five home openers, including stopping 15 of 19 shots last year in a 4-3 loss to Detroit.His start this October has been even worse: a 4.02 goals-against average and .848 save percentage in three starts.While Peters has said he needs everyone, goalies included, to play better, he said Ward and Eddie Lack are not solely to blame for the slow start.”It’s almost impossible to give them a fair evaluation because of the quality and quantity we give up,” Peters said Thursday following practice. “We could’ve been down by five after one in Detroit. [Ward] gave up, I think, three, and he made three bell-ringers for saves. So we’ve got to be better than that. I looked at the odd-man rushes and it was in the double digits. You can’t win in this league like that.”Ward has seen the mainstays in Carolina — first Rod Brind’Amour, then Eric Staal — take the brunt of the criticism for the team’s struggles, and knows as goalie the spotlight is even bigger.”I guess that is the easy thing to do, but at the end of the day it’s a team game out there and you can’t do it with one or two guys,” Ward said. “You’ve gotta be together as a unit. There’s some areas that we need to tighten, and at the same time Eddie and I know we need to be better, too. “Overall, it’s a work in progress and we need to stop the bleeding now,” Ward added. “We’re excited to be able to come home and play in front of our home fans, and I think that generates excitement within the group.”Ward and the Hurricanes could get a boost from Jeff Skinner, who looked ready to go at the pregame skate but will be a game-time decision. “I’m not sure if it’s official, but I felt good out there today,” Skinner said after the morning skate.Skinner’s 16 career points (eight goals, eight assists) in 22 games are the second most he has against any opponent (17 points in 22 games against Philadelphia).Skinner had six points in the seasons’ first five games — only linemates Victor Rask (seven points) and Lee Stempniak (six) have as many.Here are Carolina’s lines for tonight’s game (assuming Skinner plays*):Stempniak-Rask-Skinner* Nordstrom-Staal-Aho Teravainen-Lindholm-Di Giuseppe Bickell-McClement-StalbergHainsey-Faulk Slavin-Pesce Hanifin-DahlbeckWard Lack