Skinner sets Canes record with 13 shots on goal

calexander@newsobserver.comMarch 14, 2014 

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Jeff Skinner #53 of the Carolina Hurricanes attempts to maintain control of the puck while defended by Henrik Tallinder #20 of the Buffalo Sabres during their NHL game at PNC Arena on March 13, 2014 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

GREGG FORWERCK — NHLI via Getty Images

— Jeff Skinner’s 13 shots on goal Thursday in the Carolina Hurricanes’ 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres established a new franchise record.

It also led to some post-game banter with the previous record-holder, Eric Staal, who had 12 shots in a March 2008 game against Atlanta.

According to Skinner, Staal said something to him about “maybe passing the puck a little bit more.”

Skinner had a quick retort. Something about Staal “maybe getting open a little more.”

The Canes could smile and joke about such things Friday. Skinner scored a goal – and easily could have had one or two more – and Staal an assist in the victory. Their line, with rookie Elias Lindholm at right wing, combined for 19 shots, just four less than the Sabres’ team total.

The Canes closed with 55 shots, a season high and two shy of the franchise record since the team’s relocation to North Carolina in 1997.

“We had a lot of chances,” Skinner said Friday. “It’s a good sign when you’re generating that much offense.”

For the Hurricanes, who play in Boston on Saturday against the Bruins, consistent offensive production is a must if they’re to make a big late-season push and possibly get in playoff contention. They need Skinner scoring. They need Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty scoring. They need the top two lines, centered by Jordan and Eric Staal, putting up points each game.

Semin, who has a six-game point streak, and Tlusty both had goals against the Sabres during the third-period rally and Jordan Staal finished with two assists. In the past few games, their line has been the Canes’ best line.

“I’m fine with you calling them the first line, too. It’s OK,” Eric Staal said.

But Skinner is heating up again. He has scored a goal in three of the past four games and now has a team-leading 26 for the season.

Skinner beat Sabres goalie Michal Neuvirth, who appeared impregnable much of the game, with a wicked tight-angle shot in the first period. Even he wasn’t sure how the puck got past Neuvirth.

“I didn’t see it go in,” Skinner said. “It went through the goalie’s armpit or something. I heard the crowd and knew it went in.

“I had so many great chances and then the one you least expect to go in goes in for us.”

Skinner had seven shots in a game six times this season before Thursday. Against the Sabres, he had seven shots by the end of the second period and didn’t let up.

“You’re not going to get that many shots unless your teammates are finding you,” Skinner said. “A lot of my shots are off the cycle or off the rush. It’s often (Staal) or ‘Lindy’ winning a battle and me finding a hole and getting the puck in the right area.”

Despite all the offense from that line, Canes coach Kirk Muller said Eric Staal probably played his best two-way game of the season against Buffalo. Staal worked hard in the defensive zone and backchecked with a purpose.

“I thought he made good choices and was always in the right position,” Muller said Friday.

Staal’s 12-shot game came on March 28, 2008, when Staal had a goal and two assists in a 7-1 win over Atlanta. He had six shots against the Sabres, equaling his shot production in the three previous games.

Skinner’s 13 shots were the most taken by an NHL player since Dec. 28, 2010, when Nashville’s Patric Hornqvist had 14.

“That’s remarkable,” Muller said. “That means he’s on the puck, using his creativity, having a shooting mentality, the whole combination. That’s when he’s at his best when he plays like he did last night.”

The Canes (29-28-9) now face the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins (44-17-5) with a two-game winning streak. Muller said defenseman Justin Faulk, who missed the past five games with an upper-body injury, may return.

“Hopefully we can keep this thing rolling and keep that good feeling,” Skinner said.

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

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