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Lightning vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

Skinner Cleared for Contact

Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 2:21 PM / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Skinner Cleared for Contact
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

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 48 30 14 4 156 127 64
2 NYI 46 31 14 1 151 129 63
3 DET 47 27 11 9 139 119 63
4 MTL 45 29 13 3 123 106 61
5 PIT 46 26 12 8 138 117 60
6 NYR 44 27 13 4 134 106 58
7 WSH 46 24 13 9 137 120 57
8 BOS 48 25 16 7 126 121 57
9 FLA 44 20 14 10 107 122 50
10 OTT 46 19 18 9 126 128 47
11 TOR 48 22 23 3 142 150 47
12 PHI 48 19 22 7 130 146 45
13 CBJ 45 20 22 3 113 142 43
14 NJD 47 17 22 8 107 134 42
15 CAR 46 16 25 5 98 120 37
16 BUF 47 14 30 3 89 167 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 41 15 13 -8 28
J. Faulk 46 8 18 -14 26
J. Skinner 41 10 9 -7 19
E. Lindholm 46 9 10 -10 19
R. Nash 46 7 12 -4 19
J. Tlusty 39 11 7 -12 18
N. Gerbe 42 4 13 -2 17
V. Rask 46 6 9 -9 15
A. Sekera 44 1 14 -8 15
C. Terry 33 6 3 -3 9
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Khudobin 5 8 2 .916 2.32
C. Ward 11 17 3 .911 2.45