Bill Peters of the Carolina Hurricanes was thinking strictly as a coach Thursday when Jeff Skinner came limping off the ice, in pain, favoring his left leg after being hit by a shot.
Brock McGinn would shift into Skinner’s spot on the Derek Ryan line, Peters quickly surmised. Someone would roll into McGinn’s spot on the Lucas Wallmark line and …
Suffice it to say Peters probably was one of the few thinking that way. Many who saw Skinner hobble to the bench in the first period, then go down the tunnel to the locker room had to be thinking the worst – if Skinner was out, the Canes’ playoff chances were over.
But Skinner was back for the second period against the Columbus Blue Jackets. His goal late in regulation tied the score 1-1 and defenseman Noah Hanifin then won it 2-1, at 2:16 of overtime, after Skinner drove the net for a shot and goalie Joonas Korpisalo poked the puck into the slot.
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Hanifin was waiting. He didn’t miss.
“Guys are playing for each other,” Skinner said. “You need contributions from everyone, and we’re getting it from different guys on different nights. Tonight it was ‘Hanny.’ ”
The Canes have been getting a lot from Skinner. His goal Thursday was his 32nd of the season and 12th in March.
As the Canes (35-27-14) close out a four-game homestand Saturday against the Dallas Stars, they’re still in the mix for a wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Going 9-0-4 in the past 13 games, setting a franchise record for points in consecutive games, has gotten them to this point as Carolina finished 10-2-5 in March.
Peters at times has seemed hesitant to praise Skinner, as if wanting more from the left winger. But having Skinner quickly come back into the game in the second period Thursday was a lift for everyone.
“I looked down the left side of the bench and ‘Skinny’ is there,” Peters said. “Nobody wants to miss out. We caught a break. He got X-rayed after one and obviously the X-rays were negative, so that’s a positive for us.”
Skinner was hit by a Ryan shot, hopping off the ice but unable to dodge the puck. He later said it stung, but that his pads “did their job.”
Skinner also joked that he was glad it wasn’t one of Justin Faulk’s heavy bombs, smiling and saying, “I probably wouldn’t be sitting here.”
Skinner’s goal Thursday came when he tried to get the puck to the net from the right circle, the puck hitting Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones as Jones and the Canes’ Victor Rask jostled in front of Korpisalo.
“Sometimes you feel like you’re getting chances and they’re not going in and other times maybe you’re creating even less and somehow they’re going in,” Skinner said.
While Peters has looked at different line combinations in recent weeks, he has left the line of Ryan, Skinner and Lee Stempniak intact and it has produced.
“There have been a lot of good plays by them,” Skinner said. “I’ve been able to find soft areas on the ice, and they’ve found me.”
The Canes are 19-1-5 this season when Skinner scores a goal, and he’s one goal shy of tying his career high set in 2013-14.
Skinner was a part of the 2010 NHL Draft that included such forwards as Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin — the top two picks, respectively — along with Ryan Johansen and Vladimir Tarasenko. Seguin, drafted by Boston but now a fixture with the Stars, has scored 188 goals in 503 games and Skinner, the seventh overall pick, has 175 goals in 491 games.
“Whatever your role is, you try to do it to the best of your ability,” Skinner said. “For me, I think it’s to produce offensively. You want to contribute to wins and do your part.”
STARS AT HURRICANES
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh.