The Carolina Hurricanes play in an eminently winnable division. The Southeast is pretty clearly the worst division in the entire NHL, which seems to have been the case pretty much every season for several years now. The Canes currently sit atop the division with 25 points in 21 games. They made some big moves this offseason to try and win now, trading for Jordan Staal and signing Troy Brouwer's favorite player Alexander Semin. However, their hopes have now been dealt a bit of a blow. Their longtime starting netminder Cam Ward will miss 6-8 weeks with a knee injury.
Obviously, this hurts. Ward has been a staple in the Canes' net for years. Now, in this shortened season, he is going to miss pretty much the rest of the year. That will leave them relying on Dan Ellis for a while. Fortunately, Ellis has been a starting goalie in this league, and is a fairly reliable backup. Plus, in all fairness, Ward isn't that good of a goalie. I mean, he's solid to be certain. After a slow start to his career, he's had at least a .915 save percentage the last four seasons, with that .915 coming last year. This year, admittedly in 17 games, he has a .908 SV%, which isn't good. Ellis has a .909 SV% on his career, but in seven games this season he has a .923 SV%.
Don't count the Canes out yet. They have a four point lead in the standings on the Winnipeg Jets, and the Jets have a minus-9 goal differential. The Lightning have struggled recently, going 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. The Washington Capitals are still trying to pull themselves out of their early season struggles. The Panthers may be the worst team in the Eastern Conference, and now Jose Theodore is hurt. If Carolina can just tread water without Ward, they could still win the Southeast, and suddenly they'll have a three seed in the playoffs with their starting goalie back. That's not too shabby.