Having avoided a concussion, Jeff Skinner will return to the lineup for the Carolina Hurricanes as they take on the Philadelphia Flyers.
Skinner was laid out by Jared Cowen, who is a good half-foot taller, in the neutral zone during the first period of Tuesday’s game in Ottawa. Skinner left the game and did not return, held out of the game as a precaution.
“I respect the decision the doctor made,” he said. “I agree that you have to be safe and cautious.”
Safe and cautious, especially when replays seemed to show Cowen’s shoulder connecting squarely with Skinner’s head. Cowen was not penalized in-game or subsequently, but the Hurricanes did record five fighting majors in the game for the first time since Oct. 28, 2003.
“He’s trying to take the body. He’s trying to hit,” Skinner said. “It’s a physical game, and guys are going to run into each other. I don’t think it’s dirty. I think it’s a clean hit.”
At 20 years old and having already suffered two concussions, there was obvious concern for a third.
“After the game, the doctors here wanted to take a look at me, so we thought the best thing was to come home,” said Skinner, who flew back to Raleigh and missed the team’s game Thursday in Winnipeg. “He didn’t think it was a concussion, but he wanted to make sure. He wanted to run through the tests and make sure we weren’t missing anything because everyone knows there is some gray area.”
Getting that queasy feeling of déjà vu, Skinner was undoubtedly relieved when he was cleared to play.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” he said. “I’m glad it turned out the way it did.”
On the blue line, sophomore defenseman Justin Faulk will play his 100th game in the NHL tonight.
Asked if he was aware of this, he smiled and said, “That is the rumor.
“One hundred is a good number, but it’s obviously not what I want to end at,” he added.
Faulk logged 66 games in his rookie season, and after recently missing nine games with a knee sprain, he’ll play his 34th game in this shortened season.
“He’s a very good young hockey player,” said head coach Kirk Muller after Thursday’s game. “It was a big loss for us this year when he got hurt.”
Faulk leads the Hurricanes in average ice time per game at 23:33, minutes logged in all situations. The 21-year-old defenseman carries a three-game assist and point streak into tonight’s contest. He ranks tied for first among Carolina blue liners in assists (10).
“He’s out there in all the key situations,” Muller said. “Offensively and defensively, he can play against other top lines. For a young kid at that position, he’s a pretty special player.”
Faulk, who has been under the tutelage of assistant coach Dave Lewis since entering the league, has high praise for the Canes’ defensive mind, saying he’ll critique little elements of Faulk’s game that make a noticeable impact.
“Some of the stuff he points out to you, you’d never notice,” Faulk said. “I think that’s why he’s viewed as one of the better defensive coaches in the league.
“There’s good dialogue there, and he’s helped me a lot to just get comfortable in the league,” he continued. “He trusts me in all situations, which gives me a bit more confidence in every aspect of the game.”
On the ice is a continual learning process, something Faulk said will never end. Off the ice, his teammates have played an integral role in his first 100 games.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have a bunch of good guys around to help me out away from the rink,” he said. “They’ve helped ease the transition to playing in this league.”
So, what’s next?
“I’m happy that I’ve been able to play 100 games at 21 years old, but hopefully there’s plenty more to come,” Faulk said.
In one other lineup note, look for Justin Peters to start his sixth straight game in net. He’ll be opposed by trade-deadline-day-acquisition Steve Mason for Philadelphia.
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