Joel Ward hasn’t scored with a goalie in net since Jan. 7 in San Jose, 35 games ago. He has one point in his past 11 games and was a healthy scratch for performance reasons for the first time this season Monday at the Detroit Red Wings.
But Ward, throughout his NHL career, hasn’t been an offensive superstar. His career high in points is just 35. But a four-year, $12 million contract raised expectations for the 31-year-old right wing.
“I don’t feel pressure to do it at all. I’ve had points in the past; it’s just been different opportunities,” Ward said. “In Nashville I got a chance to play on special teams on both sides and that was kind of helpful. So it’s been a little different in that aspect. But I don’t feel pressure at all. If I’m playing defensively sound and not giving up chances and goals and to get on the forecheck and try to create and earn pluses and help out my linemates, then I think I’m doing my job.”
Ward said coach Dale Hunter did not really explain why he was removed from the lineup in favor of Jeff Halpern, though he pointed to the Caps’ two-game skid as perhaps the reason for a “shake-up.”
Asked if he wanted more offense out of Ward, Hunter repeated the line “more offense.”
“Wardo, we expect more from him and he knows it,” the coach said.
Ward has six goals and 12 assists this season, though that’s not a bad offensive output given the minutes he has been playing. As a third- or fourth-line grinder, he has done a good job of cycling the puck and forechecking.
But the offense hasn’t been there.
“I don’t’ know. We had two losses there, I guess. It’s hard to say, to pinpoint, what I did wrong, I guess,” Ward said. “I think it’s just important for me to stay focused on my details on the ice and what to do and that’s being good on the walls and getting pucks out and just playing good, two-way hockey.”
Ward has said repeatedly that being defensively responsible is how he likes to play.
“I’ve been doing it for a little bit here now. So I don’t really try to change or do anything or put pressure or anything,” Ward said. “I just try to go out there, just try to execute and make plays. For me, I’ve always been responsible in my end, so to speak, and I try to take pride in that and not give up too many chances or goals.”