A difficult season for the Carolina Hurricanes is becoming more problematic.
Forward Jeff Skinner, the Hurricanes' leading scorer, and defenseman Joni Pitkanen have been diagnosed with concussions and will be out of the lineup indefinitely.
Skinner took a big hit last Wednesday from Edmonton defenseman Andy Sutton and has missed the past two games. Pitkanen had been injured one night earlier in Calgary, leaving the game in the second period.
"We sent Pitkanen back home off the road trip, and he went to the doctor a few days ago," Carolina General Manager Jim Rutherford said Wednesday. "In Jeff Skinner's case, he saw the doctor today. We didn't know for sure until he was diagnosed with one."
The news couldn't be much worse for Carolina. The team is 15th in the East and just 1-5-1 since Kirk Muller replaced Paul Maurice as coach Nov. 28.
Skinner, the 2011 Calder Trophy winner, has been one of the bright spots for Carolina, with 12 goals and 12 assists in 30 games. Pitkanen leads the Hurricanes' defensive corps in scoring with 12 points in 21 games. He also leads the team in average ice time per game at 22:35.
Rutherford said there is no timetable for the return of either player.
"We just follow whatever the doctor tells us," he said. "You can't project when a player would return."
The chance of trading for players to offset the injuries looks bleak. Rutherford already had been pursuing trades prior to the latest injuries.
"There aren't any forwards out there on the trade market that could come in here and make a difference in our team," Rutherford said. "I know first-hand because I've been on the phone for three weeks, not only looking with a potential injury, but because we're a team that's potentially short a couple forwards to be one of the good teams.
"We just have to work together as a team and work our way out of the situation we're in and deal with the present."
The team already has addressed Skinner's roster spot by recalling forward Drayson Bowman from the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League. Bowman, who played Tuesday in Toronto, has 3 points in 35 NHL games spread across the last three seasons.
"We've got guys in the system we've been developing," Rutherford said. "We've talked about bringing younger players in, and that's where we will look to."
With no timetable for the return of Skinner or Pitkanen, Rutherford plans to be patient. He acknowledged that the two players could potentially be out of the lineup for a long stretch.
"Could be -- and if it is, it is," he said. "This is a real serious thing to deal with."
The Hurricanes also are shorthanded by the loss of defenseman Jay Harrison, who has missed the last nine games with an upper-body injury. Backup goaltender Brian Boucher has been out the past four games with a lower-body injury.
The Hurricanes next play Thursday, when they host Vancouver.