Canes' Jeff Skinner antsy to get back on the ice

calexander@newsobserver.comNovember 20, 2013 

CANESLA17-SP-101113-nosell-CCS

The Canes Jeff Skinner (53) gets this shot past the Kings Jonathan Quick (32) for a goal during the third period

CHRIS SEWARD — cseward@newsobserver.com

Carolina Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner is tired of watching games from the press level or the dressing room.

Being up top during games offers a different perspective, Skinner said Wednesday. Being in the room, watching on TV, gives him the opportunity to see replays.

But Skinner wants to be on the ice. And the Canes need him on the ice.

After missing the past 11 games with an upper-body injury, Skinner may return Thursday for the game against the Detroit Red Wings. A decision, Canes coach Kirk Muller said, will be made after the morning skate.

"He's a game-breaker," Muller said Wednesday. "A lot of our games have been one-goal games. That's where he excelled early in the season.

"He's capable of making that game-breaking play that can put you in the lead or tie a game. He has that different dimension we need right now as far as all these tight games, having a natural goal-scorer. And that's what he is."

Skinner was the Canes' leading scorer with three goals and six assists when he was injured Oct. 24 in the road game against the Minnesota Wild. It was the same game in which goalie Cam Ward left early with a groin injury.

The Canes (8-9-4) lost the game against the Wild and four more before going 4-0-1 on a recent run of five home games. They've now lost the past two and announced Monday that winger Alexander Semin is out indefinitely with a concussion.

During Wednesday's practice, Muller had Skinner on Eric Staal's line opposite winger Jiri Tlusty. He also had Skinner on the power-play unit with Staal, Nathan Gerbe, Chris Terry and Ryan Murphy.

"It's been frustrating. It's tough to watch," Skinner said of the injury. "But the last six, seven games we've been playing pretty well.

"My role will be to chip in offensively. The 11 games I've been out the team has done a great job defending and being responsible in our own end and working out from there. That's something we've taken pride in and want to continue, so I think coming back that will be the main focus, being responsible."

But the Canes need more offense. With Semin sidelined, they need more creativity and craftiness with the puck – things Skinner can do well.

"He has those offensive instincts," Eric Staal said. "Hopefully, Jeff will be with us and do what he does best, find the holes."

Whether five-on-five, five-on-four, four-on-four or four-on-three, the Hurricanes have had problems scoring. They did score two shorthanded goals Saturday in the 4-2 loss to St. Louis.

The Canes are averaging 1.9 goals a game and have not scored three goals in a game since Oct. 19. That ratchets up the pressure on the defense and goaltending.

"Everybody knows the system, everybody knows what they need to do," Eric Staal said. "It's a matter of going out there and executing it. We'd like to think it's going to happen soon but I'd be lying to you if I didn't say guys are pressing trying to score.

"You have to stay up, stay positive and keep working on things to help us in the offensive zone."

Skinner, 21, played all 82 games as a rookie in 2010-2011 and the first 30 games of his second season. He has since had two concussions and what appeared to be a hand injury in the Minnesota game last month.

Skinner won't reveal the nature of the injury but did note, "It's something I couldn't battle through. It was sort of limiting me. The right steps were taken even though when you're coming back it seems to take forever to get through it.

“It's getting close. It's going to bother you for a little while, but as long as it's manageable and you can get in the game it's in the right direction."

On Monday, Skinner took the morning skate at PNC Arena before the Boston Bruins game but then was not in the lineup. He went through full practices Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Obviously coming back you have to get that timing back," Skinner said.

And playing with Staal and Tlusty?

"I should be comfortable playing with them," Skinner said. "Hopefully I can bring something to that line and contribute."

When he does play, that is.

Alexander: 919-829-8945 Twitter: @ice_chip

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