Tracking the Storm

Skinner Cleared for Contact

Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 2:21 PM ET / 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.”

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72