In perhaps the most unlikely of scenarios, forwards Jeff Skinner
and Patrick Dwyer
had a bit of a fray at the tail-end of practice on Wednesday.
Skinner and Dwyer had bumped a few times in the midst of a one-on-one battle drill. As Skinner came toward the net, Dwyer gave him a shove up high. Skinner responded, sticks were high and the two drifted entangled into the corner.
The other forwards participating in the drill were quick to break up the small skirmish. Some were smiling and laughing about it. Skinner and Dwyer weren’t at the time, but it didn’t take long for cooler heads to prevail.
“It’s definitely not that I don’t like him,” Skinner said. “We already apologized and shook hands. Everything’s all right.”
Skinner was even joking about it afterward.
“It’s a tough drill out there at the end. Maybe tougher for Petey [Peters],” Skinner said. “He didn’t have anyone to fight him.
“Suttsy [Sutter] got in there pretty quick,” he added. “Saved me.”
Head coach Kirk Muller whistled for the end of practice following the dust up but said sometimes things like this just simply happen.
“Our guys care right now. They’re playing hard,” he said. “They’re trying to win every game. That’s a great sign we’ve got going here. When we’re practicing and doing battle drills and things like [a fight] happen, it shows there’s a competitive level going on with the guys.”
Skinner echoed the coach's sentiments.
“It’s not something you want to do every practice, but maybe once in awhile. You don’t want to look for it, but sometimes it happens,” Skinner said. “Guys are working hard in practice, showing they’re still caring. That’s what happens sometimes.”
On. Jan. 31 in the second period of a game against the New York Islanders, Skinner chopped at the stick of defenseman Mark Streit after not getting a call in his favor. Since then, channeling his emotions has been a point of emphasis, something he said he's had to rein in during the last couple of games.
“I play my best when I’m competitive and emotionally involved in the game. Sometimes, there’s a line that you can’t really cross,” he said. “That’s when it becomes more negative. I’ve got to do a better job keeping my emotions in check.”
Skinner was the last off the ice in Wednesday’s practice. Still thinking about what happened? Possibly. It also said a lot about his competitive nature and was noted by Muller.
“It’s a growing pain,” Muller said. “He knows that he’s going to get attention. He’s got to take that energy and focus and turn it into the competitive side of ‘play that way against me and I’ll [make you pay] by scoring and producing.’”
Assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour tapped Skinner on the helmet following the scrap and told the sophomore forward that “sometimes you just have to get that kind of stuff out of your system.” While Skinner admitted to not playing as well as he’d like to lately, today’s events weren’t a result of pent up frustration.
“I still don’t know if that’s the reason because you don’t want to take it out on your teammates,” he said. “The best I can sort of explain it is that it was a tough, competitive drill.
“I maybe could have reacted a little bit differently, but he’s a competitive guy also.”
In a way, today’s tussle is a microcosm of what the Hurricanes, as a team, are doing on the ice – they’re still fighting for the playoffs, even if the odds stack up against them.
“You always like to believe. You can’t go into games thinking you’re not playing for something,” Skinner said. “The gap isn’t that big. We know it’s a steep hill, and there’s going to be a lot of three point games. We just have to try to find a way to – every night – come to play and chip away at it.”