With Cam Ward weeks away from returning and Anton Khudobin's availability in doubt and the Rick DiPietro experiment underway with the Charlotte Checkers, the Canes' goaltending job belongs to Justin Peters.

Canes coach Kirk Muller said Monday that Peters has "the ball." For now he's the No. 1 goalie, the best option.

Against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night, Peters allowed three goals on 29 shots in a 3-1 loss and Muller had no complaints about the goaltending.

"He battled and he played hard," Muller said. "We broke down (and) had mistakes that cost us a couple of goals. We had opportunities to capitalize and had almost similar plays but we didn't capitalize."

The Pens' goals came on a rebound, a sparkling play by Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, then a deflection that ended up with the puck bouncing past Peters.

"There's such a fine line between winning and losing," Peters said after the game. "One play in the game can make a difference."

On Monday, that was the Crosby-Kunitz play. Crosby, from the top of the right circle, spotted Kunitz crashing the net and made a perfect pass for a Kunitz goal and a 2-1 Pens lead in the second period.

"It was a nice play on their part," Peters said. "I would have liked to have gotten a better push."

In the short term, at least, Peters will get more starts. The Canes play back-to-back games Friday and Saturday -- Tampa Bay at home, then the New York Rangers on the road -- and Peters may have to play both.

After Sunday's practice, Muller was talking about the goaltending situation, about the injuries, about Peters.

"He feels like he's a better goalie than a year ago," Muller said. "He worked hard all summer. These things (injuries) happen and bang, next thing you know it falls right on his plate.