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Blues 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 50 31 15 4 163 132 66
2 MTL 47 31 13 3 127 108 65
3 NYI 48 32 15 1 157 135 65
4 DET 49 28 12 9 145 128 65
5 PIT 48 27 13 8 143 124 62
6 WSH 48 25 14 9 144 124 59
7 BOS 49 26 16 7 131 123 59
8 NYR 46 27 15 4 135 111 58
9 FLA 46 21 15 10 114 129 52
10 PHI 50 21 22 7 139 151 49
11 TOR 50 22 24 4 144 155 48
12 OTT 47 19 19 9 129 134 47
13 CBJ 47 21 23 3 119 148 45
14 NJD 48 18 22 8 109 135 44
15 CAR 47 17 25 5 102 122 39
16 BUF 49 14 32 3 92 174 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 42 16 14 -6 30
J. Faulk 47 9 19 -13 28
E. Lindholm 47 9 11 -11 20
J. Tlusty 40 12 7 -11 19
J. Skinner 42 10 9 -7 19
R. Nash 47 7 12 -4 19
N. Gerbe 43 5 13 -3 18
V. Rask 47 6 9 -10 15
A. Sekera 45 1 14 -6 15
C. Terry 34 6 3 -3 9
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Khudobin 6 8 2 .918 2.30
C. Ward 11 17 3 .911 2.45