WINNIPEG — That Jared Cowen of the Ottawa Senators hit Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner in the head is indisputable.
The frame-by-frame replays of Cowens open-ice hit in Tuesdays game in Ottawa show the Sens defenseman leading with his right shoulder on the collision with Skinner, knocking Skinners head back.
No penalty was called on Cowen for the hit. Nor was any disciplinary action taken Wednesday by the NHL.
But Skinner is out of the Canes lineup, at least for one game and maybe longer. He returned to Raleigh on Wednesday morning for further examination and medical evaluation.
General manager Jim Rutherford said Wednesday he is hopeful Skinner, who has suffered concussions in each of the past two seasons, was not concussed from the Cowen hit. As of Wednesday night he had not received an update
Rutherford said he went to the Canes locker room to check on Skinner, noting, "I dont know enough to comment on anything other than when I talked to Jeff he seemed to be doing fine.
Rutherford did not question the legality of Cowens hit, which came about 13 minutes into the first period. Skinner left the ice on his own power.
"Its an open-ice hit in the neutral zone," Rutherford said. "No one likes to see it happen to their own player but its classified as a legal hit in our sport."
Rutherford said he did not believe Cowens intent was to injure Skinner, saying, "Its a bigger guy and taller player hitting another player, and the leverage of (Cowen) hitting him and knocking him down makes the hit look bigger."
Cowen is 6 feet 5 and 235 pounds and knows how to deliver a blow. Skinner is listed at 5-11 and 200 pounds.
Skinner, 20, missed 16 games last season with a concussion after taking an open-ice hit from Andy Sutton of the Edmonton Oilers. He was out five games this season after being knocked into the boards by Mark Fraser of the Toronto Maple Leafs in a Feb. 14 game at PNC Arena.
"Im always concerned when players get hurt, especially younger players," Rutherford said. Thats part of the adjustment to playing in this league playing with men. But as long as we handle these concussion situations properly and dont hurry the player back, the top doctors who specialize in this suggest that just because you had one concussion doesnt necessarily mean it leads to another.
"I do think when players get hurt at this age, more than one time, that there has to be an adjustment to their game. Thats part of what Jeffs gone through here in the second half (of the season), in trying to adjust his game and not put himself in vulnerable positions. But with the speed of the game, at some point in time all players are going to be vulnerable, and that was one of those cases (Tuesday) night."
Skinner appeared to be more cautious after returning from the concussion in February. But in recent games he has been active around the net, getting his shots and absorbing some hits, and had scored goals in two straight games before Tuesdays game.
Canes forward Chad LaRose immediately dropped the gloves and went after Cowen after the hit. It was the first of five fights in the game the first time since October 2003 that the Canes had five fighting majors in a game.
"For LaRose to be the first guy to jump in there on a much bigger guy and then all the other guys that fought, that says a lot about this team," Rutherford said.
Canes forward Kevin Westgarth battled Cowen later in the game, which the Sens won 3-2.
"Its terrible to see when a guy gets hit like that," Westgarth said. "Its not going to be accepted by anybody on our team."
The loss left the Canes (17-23-2), who are 14th in the Eastern Conference, on the brink of being fully eliminated from playoff consideration heading into Thursdays game against Winnipeg. The New York Rangers, who were eighth in the conference before Wednesdays games, have 46 points. The Canes have 36 points with six games remaining in the regular season and with six teams ahead of them. A loss Thursday would knock the Canes out of playoff contention.
NOTE: Defenseman Joni Pitkanen, who suffered a broken heel bone April 2 against Washington, underwent surgery Tuesday in Charlotte. Rutherford said he was told the surgery was successful and Pitkanen should be ready for the start of preseason training camp.
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