Canes' Skinner, Pitkanen out indefinitely with concussions

From staff reportsDecember 14, 2011 

Canes forward Jeff Skinner and defenseman Joni Pitkanen have been diagnosed with concussions and will be sidelined indefinitely, general manager Jim Rutherford said today.

Skinner, the team's leading scorer, was evaluated Wednesday by Dr. Sandeep Gavankar at Carolina Family Practice and Sports Medicine in Cary. Skinner, 19, did not play in the Canes' last two games, against the Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs.

"This is a big step back and you hate it for the players," Rutherford said. "And especially with a young player such as Jeff, at this point in his career. He's a player who plays so hard and loves the game so much.

"From a personal point of view, this is so hard, to watch him deal with this. From a team point of view he will be missed, as will Joni. We will miss them both."

Rutherford said he believed Skinner was injured in the third period of the game against the Edmonton Oilers last Wednesday, when Skinner absorbed an open-ice hit from the Oilers' Andy Sutton.

Sutton was suspended eight games by the NHL for his hit on the Canes' Alexei Ponikarovsky in the game. But Rutherford said Sutton's hit on Skinner was clean.

"It was a clean hit but unfortunately a clean hit where the player gets hurt," he said.

Rutherford said defenseman Jay Harrison also had been sidelined with a concussion but has been cleared for contact by the doctors and could play Sunday against Florida.

Rutherford said with concussions there is no way to pinpoint when a player can return. Skinner and Pitkanen, 28, are listed as "day to day," but that's just hockey terminology.

"You don't know. It could be a week or two weeks, but you don't know," he said. "Everyone heals differently. You have to get the proper rest. It's all left totally up to the doctors. We 're following all the proper procedures."

Rutherford said after the Oilers game that Skinner appeared to be fine that night. There was a light off-ice workout the next day, Rutherford said, and Skinner had no problems.

That changed after the morning skate Friday in Winnipeg, when Rutherford said "everything did not seem to be right" with Skinner.

"That's when we took the precautionary measures we needed to take," he said.

Speaking after practice Wednesday, coach Kirk Muller said he was prepared to be patient with both Skinner and Pitkanen despite their importance to the team.

“We’re going to be extremely careful," Muller said. "We’re not naïve on this situation as far as how important it is to get these guys healthy before they get back. Whatever that time frame is, we have to monitor it each day. But (Skinner) is not going to step back into the lineup until he’s ready to go for sure.”

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