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Skinner Cleared for Contact

Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 2:21 PM / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
Jeff Skinner got news last night from his doctor that he’s been anxiously awaiting: he is cleared for contact.

Michael Smith
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Today in practice at Raleigh Center Ice, Skinner took the ice in a red jersey and actively participated in every drill, a first for the sophomore forward since he suffered a concussion on Dec. 7.

“Today is a big step for me to get out there in a normal jersey and play in all the drills,” he said. “But, there are not the huge hits that you’re going to see in the game.”

Skinner has practiced for over a week wearing a yellow, no-contact jersey. He’s continued to talk with his doctor twice a day. His doctor runs daily tests to assess his progress. Skinner said that he passed one of his tests last week and finally cleared two more yesterday.

“I don’t know if I annoyed him or he annoyed me,” Skinner said, smiling. “Progress is slow. Sometimes you aren’t feeling well. But he’s been a huge help and real supportive. Having that sort of experience, he knows how to handle it.”

Now that the contact hurdle has been cleared, the medical staff will see how Skinner responds to today’s practice. That could determine whether he plays tomorrow in Tampa Bay, according to head coach Kirk Muller.

“If he’s clear with all his symptoms, then we can make a decision,” Muller said. “I’d love to see him in tomorrow, but obviously we’ll be cautious. It has a lot to do with how he feels and how he responds to today.”

Though maybe a little winded, Skinner seemed all right at first glance immediately following practice. He was upbeat and hopeful about getting back into the lineup soon.

“It’s not up to me,” he said. “The doctors, trainers and coaching staff will make the decision for me, so the pressure is kind of off me in that way.”

Skinner has missed the team’s last 14 games. Before he went down with the concussion, he was the team’s leading scorer with 24 points (12g, 12a). To bring that element back to the lineup would be a boon to the team.

“He opens it up … he makes other players better,” Muller said. “He’d be a welcome addition to help create plays on the power play.”

Though it might be premature to start prognosticating where Skinner would fit into the forward lines when he returns, one has to think that being reunited with Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen on the “Finns and Skins” line is an attractive option.

“It makes sense to put them together,” Muller said. “It would really depend on what the personnel with the rest of the guys are with injuries and all that.”

For Skinner, the road of recovery has been long and frustrating, especially considering the uncertainty that surrounds concussions. But Skinner gives credit to his support group – Jay Harrison, who went through a concussion last month, the medical staff, his doctor and his former teammates up in Kitchener. He even spoke with fellow Hurricane Ryan Murphy, who also was concussed in the Fall.

“When you don’t know how long it’s going to be and you don’t know what steps are going to be taken to get back into game shape, it can be frustrating,” he said. “You just have to stick with it. I’ve been fortunate because I’ve had a lot of support.

“Just coming around here with my teammates, it sort of lifts your spirits.”

It’s clear from Skinner’s demeanor that he’s happy just to be progressing, even if he doesn’t get into the lineup tomorrow. Anything to get out of the press box.

“The game looks a lot easier from up there,” he said. “But, I’m ready to get back on the bench.”

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STANDINGS

[SSS_STANDINGS.METROPOLITAN_DIVISION_LABEL]
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
2 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
3 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
4 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
5 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
6 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
7 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
8 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 79 21 40 -13 61
J. Skinner 71 33 21 -14 54
A. Sekera 74 11 33 4 44
A. Semin 65 22 20 1 42
J. Staal 82 15 25 2 40
J. Faulk 76 5 27 -9 32
N. Gerbe 81 16 15 -6 31
J. Tlusty 68 16 14 2 30
R. Nash 73 10 14 0 24
P. Dwyer 75 8 14 -2 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Khudobin 19 14 1 .926 2.30
C. Ward 10 12 6 .898 3.06
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