Being without Jordan Staal
for three to four months is an already challenging problem to solve.
Now the Carolina Hurricanes are preparing to be without Jeff Skinner for an undetermined amount of time. The 22-year-old was diagnosed with a concussion after Matt Niskanen made contact with Skinner’s head on a questionable yet unpenalized hit in Sunday’s preseason finale.
“It’s disappointing, obviously, to a certain degree, but you’ve got to continue on,” head coach Bill Peters said after practice on Tuesday. “Hopefully it’s something that clears up quick, and we can move on from it.”
For the time being, the Hurricanes will be again looking to answer the question of how to replace a key player in their lineup. Skinner led the team in goals last season with 33 and has been a 30-goal scorer two out of the four years that he’s played in the NHL. In this year’s exhibition season, Skinner ranked second on the team in points with five (2g, 3a) in as many games. He was also a team-best plus-3.
With 11 power-play goals in 2013-14, Skinner was also one of the more potent players on one of the league’s more ineffective power plays, and he figured to be a key part of this season’s revamped man advantage.
“It changes things for sure,” Peters said. “We shuffled the deck here a little bit.”
“He’s a real good player, and he’s been looking good in the preseason too. It’s hard to replace him,” linemate Elias Lindhom said of Skinner. “We’re going to miss him a lot, but hopefully we’ll be fine without him for a couple of games or however long it will be.”
Skating in Skinner’s stead on the already-revamped second line is Nathan Gerbe. Assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour will ice new power play units in Wednesday’s practice.
“When someone gets injured, someone else gets the opportunity. Rasker (Rask) is one of them, and he’s done an unbelievable job,” Lindholm said. “It’s hard to replace guys like Jordan and Skinny, but guys will try to do their best and be as good as they can.”
That said, the duration of Skinner’s absence is yet unknown.
“He got treated yesterday,” Peters aid. “He’ll go through the protocol.”
Though he didn’t have the chance to speak to him this morning, Lindholm, Skinner’s roommate, said the young forward was doing all right yesterday.
“I don’t know what the prognosis is, but we’ll figure it out,” he said.
On the good news front, Lindholm practiced with the team on Tuesday after leaving Sunday afternoon’s game with a lower-body injury following a blocked shot. Patrick Dwyer is still dealing with a lower-body injury, according to Peters, but skated by himself on Tuesday morning. The hope is that he’ll be ready for Opening Night, but he remains in a day-to-day situation.
Even with Patrick Brown recalled from Charlotte on Monday night, the Canes were still short a forward at practice, so Ryan Murphy slotted in on the fourth-line wing. Should Dwyer not be healthy enough to play on Friday, the Canes could keep Murphy in the lineup or they could recall an additional forward from Charlotte.
With Skinner now sidelined as well, the roster questions continue. But the answers? Peters is confident the Canes will have them.
“We’re going to have to be real responsible now defensively,” he said. “We’re going to have to make sure we’re the hardest-working team each and every night in order to give ourselves a realistic chance, and I think we’re capable of that. We’ll find a way.”