When Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer was informed Monday that Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward would be sidelined the next 6-8 weeks with a third-degree sprain of his medial collateral ligament, his reaction was pretty much the same as any other NHL player.
“Who’s their backup goalie?” he asked.
That would be Dan Ellis, who has appeared in just seven of the Hurricanes’ 21 games this season, going 3-2-0 with a 2.53 GAA.
“It might change their team, that’s for sure,” Capitals center Mike Ribeiro said. “When you lose your top goalie you’re always searching for someone to come in and replace him.
“I’m sure their backup will try to do his best out there. But we cannot really look at those guys and hope for stuff to happen. We have to come out and make something happen.”
Through 20 games the Caps [8-11-1] are last in the Eastern Conference with 17 points, eight behind the Hurricanes, who lead the Southeast Division with 25 points.
More importantly, the Caps are six points out of a playoff spot as they enter a stretch in which they play 13 games in 22 days. Five of those games will come against teams in the Southeast Division, where the Caps own a 5-2-0 record.
“We needed to win some games against divisional teams and we’ve been able to do that,” Brouwer said. “Now we need to start winning against top teams in the conference.”
Their next chance comes Tuesday night against the Boston Bruins, whose 30 points are second behind Montreal in the East.
Beginning Tuesday the Caps won’t have more than one day off between games until March 27 when they’ll get a three-day break in the schedule. That’s why Ribeiro thinks it’s imperative that they get to .500 as soon as possible.
“We’re getting close to 50-50 here,” he said. “The last nine or 10 games we’ve been playing better. We can build one game at a time.”