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Hurricanes hope to have Skinner back against Bruins

by Dan Rosen
BRUINS (28-11-1) at HURRICANES (15-23-7)


Last 10:
Boston 8-2-0; Carolina 5-4-1

Season series:
This is the third of four meetings this season and despite the discrepancy in overall record, the Hurricanes have already beaten the Bruins twice. They won 3-2 in Raleigh on Oct. 12 and then 4-1 in Boston six days later.

Big Story:
It is possible that Carolina star Jeff Skinner returns to the lineup Saturday after missing 15 games with a concussion. Skinner has been practicing with the club and went through some hard battles in Friday's session. Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said after practice that he wasn't ruling Skinner out for Saturday's game against Boston.

Team Scope:

The Bruins closed out their four-game homestand with back-to-back wins over Winnipeg and Montreal after losing to Vancouver last weekend. They've won 11 of their last 13 games since losing two in a row for the first time since late October.

Boston has been led by the resurgent play of center David Krejci, who has 5 goals and 10 assists during his current 10-game point-scoring streak. Krejci assisted on Milan Lucic's third-period goal Thursday. It was his first game-winning goal of the season after he had seven last season.

However, the Bruins admitted they were sloppy in Thursday's 2-1 win over Montreal and needed Tim Thomas and his 33 saves to bail them out.

"He's done that in the past, and it's something we've gotten used to," coach Claude Julien said, "but not that we want to play that way too often."

They snapped a two-game losing streak with a resounding 5-2 win over Tampa Bay on Thursday. The Hurricanes hadn't scored five goals in a game since a 5-3 win at Edmonton on Dec. 7. They scored only three goals in losing back-to-back games to Nashville and Philadelphia before they went to Tampa and beat the Lightning.

The Hurricanes actually had three different players record 3 points in the first period Thursday night. Jiri Tlusty had 2 goals and 1 assist for his first career 3-point period. Eric Staal had 3 assists, giving him his third 3-point game in his last seven contests. Staal leads the Canes with 33 points. Tuomo Ruutu added a goal and 2 assists.

The Canes are hoping the offense will get another jolt with the return of Skinner. The Bruins lead the League in goals-against (1.90 per game).

"We gave him a good physical push today at the end of practice to get him in some more battles," Muller told the Raleigh News & Observer. "If everybody feels he's ready to go we'll put him in. But I'm not going to put him in unless I have that gut feeling and everyone says he's ready to go."

Who's Hot:
In addition to Krejci, Nathan Horton has 7 points, including 5 goals, in his last five games. Horton, who was being criticized for his slow start to the season, is up to 14 goals and 29 points. … Staal, who was also being criticized for his slow start, has 8 points on a goal and 7 assists over his four-game point-scoring streak.

Injury Report: The Bruins arrive in Raleigh healthy, though they will be without the suspended Brad Marchand. He's not eligible to return until next Thursday's game at New Jersey. … Skinner is the main storyline regarding the Hurricanes' injuries, but Joni Pitkanen (knee/concussion), Brian Boucher (groin) and Chad LaRose (upper body) have all been out of action.

Stat Pack:
Krejci's 10-game point-scoring streak is the longest in the NHL this season and it matches the longest streak of his career.

Puck Drop:
"There's so many gray areas, so many people involved," Skinner told the Raleigh News & Observer. "The training staff, the doctors, the coaches, the management. It's really a joint sort of decision, and we have to come together and decide it so that everyone is comfortable with the situation and the decision that's made."

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