Old friend Aaron Ward is back with the Hurricanes on Saturday after spending the last two-plus seasons with the Bruins. In Boston, Ward served as one of the veteran leaders that helped the Bruins and their young core become a Stanley Cup contender a lot quicker than expected.
The Hurricanes, for whom Ward helped win a Stanley Cup in 2006, are hoping he can provide that same veteran presence and stability on the blue line that he did for the Bruins. Apparently, he’s fitting in nicely.
“Identical, a stabilizing presence both on and off the ice,” Hurricanes head coach Paul Maurice answered when asked how he and the Carolina organization envisioned Ward fitting into the roster and the dressing room. "He did a good job last night seeking out the puck carrier in our end and playing physical, which is what we know him to be from playing all those games against him last year. He’s a good calming veteran guy with a pretty wicked sense of humor. We like those guys around here. They keep things loose when the grind comes.”
Ward apparently is up to his old tricks with his teammates, and Maurice knows the veteran’s positive attitude will help in critical periods of the season.
“He’s got a bit of a prankster in him,” Maurice said. "I think he enjoys the game more. I think you see that with guys like him when they get a little older and get more secure in their careers. When you’ve got three Stanley Cup rings you can probably enjoy the game a little bit. You have to have those kinds of guys in the room, and I think they’re really critical to how your [locker] room operates.”
When Ward was dealt to the Hurricanes this past summer, he immediately sought out new teammate Scott Walker who had lost his cool and sucker-punched Ward in Game 5 of the seven-game battle between the two clubs in the playoffs last spring. The two have put the past behind them now, but that doesn’t mean Walker isn’t the recipient of some good old-fashioned ribbing from his new teammate.
“You know I had played against him for a long time and he skates with us in the summer down in Carolina, so like I said, it was nothing personal and it wasn’t like I was planning on doing what I did,” Walker said Saturday. “It happened, and like I said I’m not proud of it, and it’s just something that happened in the heat of battle. We’re good now but he gives it to me here and there and he’s a funny guy for sure. It’s good now, he’ll rib me about it a little like I said, but he’s a good guy.”