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Lightning vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

Skinner Looks to Round Out Game, Eyes Playoffs

Tuesday, 10.01.2013 / 4:00 PM / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Skinner Looks to Round Out Game, Eyes Playoffs
Entering his fourth season in the National Hockey League, Jeff Skinner has one thing on his mind, something that has eluded him thus far in his young career: making the playoffs.
Entering his fourth season in the National Hockey League, Jeff Skinner has one thing on his mind, something that has eluded him thus far in his young career: making the playoffs.

Michael Smith
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“We just want to make the playoffs. That’s what everyone plays the game for,” Skinner said. “I haven’t been there yet. That’s the goal, and that’s what everyone is striving for.”

This summer, after recording four points (including two game-winning goals) in eight games with Team Canada in the IIHF World Championship, Skinner participated in regular workouts in Toronto with strength and conditioning trainer Andy O’Brien. Prior to training camp, the 21-year-old traveled to Vail, Colorado, for high-altitude training with O’Brien and a small group of NHL players.

“It was a fresh start, in a way,” Skinner said. “It was a different perspective and a different approach.

“I felt good this summer, and hopefully we can get off to a good start and get something going.”

In 2012-13, Skinner was scoring at a torrid pace out of the gate. He opened the shortened season with 14 points (7g, 7a) in 13 games, putting him on pace to be a point-per-game producer with over 50 points.

His second concussion in as many years would pump the brakes on his offensive output, as he recorded just nine points (5g, 4a) in his final 28 games.

Coming into this season, his offensive game is not the focus.

Canes head coach Kirk Muller wants to make Skinner, who has been a minus-8 and a minus-21 respectively in his last two seasons, a more complete, all-around player without stifling the offensive flair and creativity that makes him a constant threat.

“I think it’s a big year for him,” Muller said. “All we’re asking from Skins is to play the game like everybody else in the group. The way our identity of our team is going, you look at the last three games – exhibition or not – that’s pretty much our group. We have to play well without the puck, and we have to backcheck. We ask our forwards to skate, so that means you have to play at both ends of the rink.”

Skinner has accepted the challenge.

“Every year you come in, and your goal is to improve as a player and round out your game,” he said. “For me, that’s one of the aspects that I can focus on – rounding out my game and becoming a more complete player.”

In the exhibition schedule, Skinner has been plugged in on the team’s third line. Most recently, he has skated alongside Riley Nash and Drayson Bowman.

“Skins is the guy that plays more off of impulse and instincts, but they have to play well without the puck. If they do, they’ll get their opportunities to produce offensively,” Muller said. “They should be a good line, really, if you look at the chemistry of the group.”

And the offense?

“That just comes naturally,” Muller said. “He’s a goal scorer.”

Though Skinner's even-strength ice time may be more limited on the third line, he’ll see ancillary minutes on the power play. Muller said Skinner could be crucial to improving the Hurricanes’ 27th-ranked man advantage from last season.

“I said to him, ‘I want you to take over a little bit more responsibility on the power play in terms of that should be your real ticket. You’re a goal scorer. You should want to score, and you should be hungry to score,’” Muller said. “He can make the power play better.”

In 188 career games, Skinner has potted 64 goals and recorded 67 assists (131 points). His most potent season, numbers-wise, was his Calder Trophy-winning rookie campaign, in which he led first-year players in scoring with 63 points (31g, 32a).

But as long as the team is winning, that’s not his chief concern.

“Numbers-wise, I don’t really put too much emphasis on that sort of thing because that’s not why we’re here,” he said. “We’re trying to build toward the Stanley Cup.”



SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

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