Goalie Ellis feels guilt about Ward's injury

It is tough enough to take as it is, seeing the star goalie of your team go down.

But for Carolina Hurricanes backup netminder Dan Ellis, what’s eating at him even more is that he was supposed to start Sunday when Ward was injured.

"The way in which he went down when he’s covering your start for you because you’re not feeling well, it just stinks to see your partner go down in a situation like that," Ellis told ESPN.com on Monday.

Flu-ridden, Ellis figured it was better that Ward should go against Florida on Sunday.

"I wasn't feeling well at all," Ellis said. "I knew Cam was feeling and playing really well, I just figured it was probably better putting the healthy guy in. Now you wish you would have found a way to get through it."

As it turns out, Ellis played the last half of the game after Ward was injured. Now Ellis, 32, will be counted on even more with Ward out six to eight weeks with an MCL injury.

"It’s a good opportunity to play some games but at the expense of losing a guy like Cam, it’s definitely got a bittersweet type of feeling to it," Ellis said. "You never like to see your partner go down. But I’ve got to go out there now and pick up where Cam left off."

That four-point lead at the top of the Southeast Division for the Hurricanes will be severely tested after the news about Ward on Monday.

What’s unusual for Carolina is that Ward has been just so durable over the years (fourth most games played by a goalie in the NHL since the start of 2006-07), the Canes aren’t used to playing without him.

"He’s played through injuries and he’s been a healthy guy that’s given us a lot of games and obviously carried our team at times," veteran Carolina GM Jim Rutherford told ESPN.com on Monday. "So he will be missed. It’s just part of our game that you have to deal with."

Ellis has experience as a No. 1 netminder from his days in Nashville. Also, with Anaheim in 2010-11, he became the starter for the injured Jonas Hiller.

"It was similar when I was traded to Anaheim when Hiller was out," Ellis said. "I’ve been given this opportunity in the past. You just want to draw on your past experience from Nashville and Anaheim and go out there and give your team a chance to win every night."

Ellis has rock-solid numbers this season as the backup: a .923 save percentage and 2.53 goals-against average.

Youngster Justin Peters has been terrific with Charlotte of the AHL, posting a .921 save percentage and 2.29 goals-against average, and will be the backup.

"It’s tough for any team, you can never fully replace your No. 1 guy," Rutherford said. "But we have two capable guys. Peters has had an outstanding season in the American Hockey League."

Rutherford might be on the lookout for goalie depth at the AHL level but don’t expect any big goalie trade otherwise. Ward will be back, the Hurricanes just have to survive until then.

Carolina continues, however, to look for help on defense. That’s been the main area of focus for a while now and if/when the Hurricanes make a deal, it will likely be for a defenseman.

Panthers hobbling

Meanwhile, in South Florida, there's no truth to the rumor Dale Tallon is coming out of retirement to play.

But the GM of the Panthers is running out of bodies, that’s for sure.

Jose Theodore, Dmitry Kulikov and Scottie Upshall were all injured Saturday and joined a group that already included Mike Weaver, Kris Versteeg and Ed Jovanovski on the sidelines.

It’s not clear yet how long Theodore, Kulikov and Upshall will be out, although it’s expected Theodore (groin) is a long-term situation.

"We don’t have any firm results yet on anybody, they are getting checked today, we’ll have more to say tomorrow," Tallon told ESPN.com on Monday.

Theodore is a sizable loss as the No. 1 netminder, but the reality is that the Panthers were eventually this season going to hand the reins over to 23-year-old Jacob Markstrom in net anyway. He’s going to be their No. 1 netminder when next season opens. Instead, he gets his shot now.

The Panthers, a surprise playoff team last season, have yet to ice a healthy roster this season and it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season.

"We got off to a bad start; first game of the season, we had six guys out and second game of the season we had four guys out, we’ve had 4-5 guys out every game almost all year," Tallon said. "Now, we’ve 6-7 guys out. It’s just how it is. The good news, our kids are good. [Jonathan] Huberdeau is lighting it up. Every day he’s getting better and better. [Peter] Mueller has been outstanding and so is [Drew] Shore. [Erik] Gudbranson was good yesterday. So you know, we look at the bright side."

Huberdeau has indeed been incredible to watch.

The Panthers are last in the East, although five points out of the last playoff spot isn’t the end of the world.

"We’re still not out of it; we need to get on a little bit of a roll. It’s going to be hard to do obviously with our lineup decimated by injuries," Tallon said.

Realistically, the injuries will likely force the GM’s hand, in my opinion. It’s pretty close to white-flag time. I would look for the Panthers to take calls on some veterans in the not too distant future and turn the page to focus on youth.

Oilers grab some grit

The Leafs moved rugged winger Mike Brown to the Oilers on Monday for a conditional 2014 fourth-round pick, which becomes a third-rounder if Edmonton makes the playoffs this season.

It was a tough move for GM Dave Nonis, who liked what Brown brought but, in the end, the return of Matt Frattin from injury forced a roster decision. This came down to keeping Brown or Frazer McLaren and the latter is a bigger dude who can take on the big guys in this league. Brown is game but more of a middleweight. Mind you, Brown is also a better skater.

The Oilers are in dire need of grit up front. The young Edmonton team is getting pushed around. The Oilers are dead last in the NHL with four fighting majors (Toronto leads the league with 24).

Lots of skill on this Oilers team, but very little sandpaper. Brown will bring that, but I suspect the Oilers aren’t done trying to toughen up between now and next season.