Can Skinner still make it to Sochi?

calexander@newsobserver.comJanuary 4, 2014 

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    UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Odds are, the Canes' Jeff Skinner will have time off during February, during the Olympic break.

    Then again …

    Skinner did score 12 goals in the month of December. He did begin 2014 with a hat trick against the Washington Capitals and has 15 goals in his past 14 games. Who knows how many goals the winger might have a month from now.

    The Canadian Olympic team for Sochi will be announced Tuesday and it will be team loaded at forward. But Skinner may be muscling his way into the Olympic conversation at the 11th hour -- or could be a replacement later if there's an injury to someone on the initial roster.

    "Those kind of things are out of my control," Skinner said Saturday. "Any time you sort of get put in that conversation it's an honor, and it would be to represent your country on the biggest stage.

    "It's cool being in the conversation, but other than that I can't worry about it too much. All I can focus on now is trying to pick up wins here and try to pick up points and keep it going."

    Some forwards are locks for Team Canada, such as Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. New York Islanders captain John Tavares should be another can't-miss selection.

    The list of forwards in the Canadian pool is a long one and includes Canes captain Eric Staal, Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf of Anaheim, Patrice Bergeron of Boston and others.

    "There's a ton of talent, some big, big names," Skinner said. "Either way it's going to be a good team and fun to watch."

    At 21, it may not be Skinner's "turn." Given the talent available, it may not be. It may be too late in the process.

    Canes coach Kirk Muller was asked again Saturday about Skinner's chances. The question came after Muller had talked about Skinner becoming a "clutch goal scorer" for the Canes.

    "He's certainly put himself in the (Olympic) discussion, I would think, because of how hot he is," Muller said. "He's an opportunist and a guy who can be a game-breaker. He scores timely goals and is a natural goal-scorer."

    Muller was an assistant coach for Team Canada in the 2012 World Championship. Skinner was on that team and at times played on a line with Tavares.

    "We were in a 2-2 game and 'Skins' was playing and, bang, out of nowhere he gets the winning goal," Muller said. "So there's that dynamic. If they're looking for that type of personnel, he's a scorer. He scores at the right times."

Odds are, the Canes' Jeff Skinner will have time off during February, during the Olympic break. Then again …

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