Third season provides bounce-back opportunity for Skinner

Jan. 24, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

Dejected and forlorn, Carolina Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner stood with his hat pulled low and his eyes to the floor. Every now and then he looked up.

His team had just dropped its second straight game, a 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, to open the 2013 NHL season. He had scored Carolina’s lone goal, a swatted rebound of a Jordan Staal shot that beat Tampa Bay goaltender Mathieu Garon to an empty net.

But it wasn’t enough, despite some improvements.

“Guys were clicking a little bit better than last game,” he said. “We’ve just got to stick with it. There were a lot of chances. We put a lot of pucks on net. If we keep doing that, we’re going to get a bounce here and there and we’re going to get some goals.”

Skinner missed 16 games last season after suffering a concussion against Edmonton on Dec. 7, 2011. After winning the Calder Trophy, given to the league’s rookie of the year, in the 2010-11 season with 31 goals and 63 points, he notched just 20 goals and 44 points in 2011-12.

This season, he is slotted to be one of the best players on a team full of talent. Along with 20-goal scorers Skinner, forward Jussi Jokinen and center and captain Eric Staal, the Carolina roster was improved with the additions of former Washington Capitals winger Alexander Semin and the other Staal, an ex-Pittsburgh Penguins center.

“It’s pretty easy to play with all those guys,” Skinner said.

With only 48 games on the schedule due to the NHL lockout, it’s a different feeling.

“It’s a unique situation for everyone,” he said. “Physically, I feel good. There’s no excuses, but I think you do the best you can and I think we keep coming together and keep building off the positives in our game and we’re going to get some wins here soon.”

The season has not started off as hoped. The loss to the Lightning was preceded by a 5-1 defeat to Florida this past Saturday. Despite the early failures, the Hurricanes are not despairing.

“I think you just have to take the positives,” Skinner said. “Obviously, it’s not good enough and the results aren’t there. It’s early in the year and everyone knows that it’s a short season and these points are all crucial. But we’ve just got to stick with it and not panic and change our game.”

Head coach Kirk Muller pointed to Skinner’s performance Tuesday night as a bright spot.

“That’s one of the positive things for me tonight,” Muller said. “Skinns was not happy with his first game. I thought he worked hard tonight. He was very involved, probably one of our best forwards tonight. When he works like that, he’s a creative player, he can be a game-breaker.”

With Carolina facing the Buffalo Sabres tonight at 7 p.m., Skinner said the team needs to have a sense of desperation to earn its first victory of the season.

“Hopefully we can come out here and have a good practice tomorrow and make some adjustments and get right back at it,” he said.

He’s also sporting a nice flow on his head, the curly brown locks reaching down to the back of his neck.

A compliment about that finally got a bit of a smile out of him.

“Thanks,” he said, chuckling.