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Gameday: Hurricanes vs. Flyers

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes

Just over a year after he was drafted seventh overall by the Carolina Hurricanes, Jeff Skinner will be skating in his 100th National Hockey League game tonight.

Michael Smith
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For a 19-year-old, those 100 games happened fast. But Skinner did skate in all 82 of the Hurricanes’ games last season. Tonight is the team’s 18th game of the season and his 18th as well. Simple math, for him.

“I looked at the milestones six games ago, and then I realized it’d be the 18th game with 82 last year,” Skinner said. “It’s exciting. It’s cool to have a milestone like that tonight.”

Head coach Paul Maurice has been behind the bench for all of Skinner’s games, and he has said that he learned last season not to put any restraints on the young forward.

“He certainly has made things happen in those 100 games, hasn’t he?” Maurice said. “There’s a lot of guys that run 100 games and you have a hard time putting a highlight reel together, but for him, you get your money’s worth out of those.”

When the second-year forward reaches the century mark tonight, he’ll have plenty of accomplishments under his belt already – an All-Star Game appearance, a dynamic rookie season that earned him the Calder Trophy and even a ticket package built around him. These are accomplishments that young hockey players dream about, let alone live out.

“It’s weird to think of playing 100 games,” he said. “As a kid, you’re not really worried about getting 100 games, 200 games. You just hope to make the NHL and see where it goes from there.”

In 99 games with the Hurricanes, Skinner has amassed 80 points (38g, 42a). Seventeen of those points have come through as many games this season (7g, 10a), as he leads the team in all three scoring categories. This puts him on pace to eclipse his 63-point total from his rookie season.

Over the course of his career with the Canes, though, Skinner said the most important thing he has learned hasn’t been physical- or technical-based, but rather mental.

“Just keeping a positive attitude,” he said. “I know I say it a lot, but I think keeping an even keel is important. There are so many ups and downs in the season. We’ve been through a few of those downs and ups so far this season.

“But there are a lot of games. You’ve got 82 games in a season, which is a lot, so you can’t get too down on yourself when things are going bad.”

In his career against the Flyers, Skinner has recorded 2 points (1g, 1a) in five games. The team went just 1-3 against Philadelphia last season, and they are 1-6 vs. the Peter Laviolette-coached Flyers team since he began coaching there. The lone win for the Canes came on February 18 of this calendar year on Rod Brind’Amour Night, as they topped #17’s former team, 3-2.

The Flyers come into Raleigh tonight off a 3-2 win against the Florida Panthers last night. The Canes ended a four-game losing skid in a 5-3 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday. Tonight, the Hurricanes will look to take advantage of the potential fatigue factor with the Flyers, and also string together some confidence via a winning streak.

“The effort has been there for most parts of the season,” Skinner said. “We just have to play with some confidence. When a team loses two, three, four in a row, they lose that confidence and mental toughness. I think we got a little bit of that back last game, and hopefully we can keep it going here tonight.”

In his 100th game, Skinner would figure to be a big part of that potential success again tonight. Against the Penguins on Saturday, the “Finns and Skins” line of Skinner, Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu combined for 7 points. Skinner led the way with 3 points (1g, 2a), and Ruutu (2g) and Jokinen (2a) chipped in with two points a piece. This line has been the most consistent and productive for the Canes this season.

NOTES: Maurice said there would be no lineup changes for tonight … Anthony Stewart will once again be the healthy scratch among the forwards … Joni Pitkanen will miss his second-straight game with a lower-body injury … Line combinations for tonight can be found here.

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