By Michael Smith
Raleigh, NC Feb. 23, 2013 – Outfitted in a yellow, non-contact jersey, Jeff Skinner skated with the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.
It was the third day in a row that the 20-year-old forward was on the ice. On Wednesday, the organization announced that Skinner had a concussion. The next morning, he put in a light skate, no more than 15 minutes in length. Friday, he skated with assistant coach John MacLean before ramping up the intensity today with the team.
So, how does he feel?
“Better,” said a smiling Skinner. “A lot better. It’s good to get out there.”
Late in the second period against Toronto on Feb. 14, Skinner corralled the puck and raced off on a three-on-one rush with Jordan Staal and Jay Harrison to his left. Stickhandling, he lost the puck in the right circle. He turned to regain control when Mark Fraser bulldozed him, sending him crashing into the boards.
“It was a clean hit. I just went into the wall a little funny,” he said. “You can’t change [how you play], really. It’s a fast game, and guys are going to run into you.”
Initially, Skinner said, it was his neck that was bothering him.
“You get a lot of bruises in the game,” he said. “It’s tough really to tell.”
He woke up the next morning feeling a little “off.”
“Again, sort of one of those things where maybe I have a head cold,” he said. “It’s a gray area.”
He practiced with the team that afternoon, again feeling a little “off” afterward, but nothing too severe. He participated in the Skate with the Canes event that night and rested on Saturday, an off day. When he came in for practice on Sunday morning, he consulted with the doctor, got tested and remained off the ice for four days.
Having gone through a similar experience last season – which caused the then-sophomore forward to miss 16 games – helped Skinner to get a better handle on his state.
But, that didn’t make it any less concerning or frustrating.
“It’s scary. It’s kind of frustrating. I think that’s the biggest emotion going through,” he said. “It’s definitely easier knowing what to expect and what not to expect.
“You sort of know the feeling, he continued. “In some ways, it makes you more aware. You can say, ‘Yeah, I felt like this last year. That puts your mind at ease. Going through it last year taught me a lot. It’s not nice to have gone through it, but it’s nice to have that experience to draw off of.”
Head coach Kirk Muller said Skinner, the team’s second leading scorer with 14 points (7g, 7a), remains day-to-day. With a packed schedule ahead and limited practice time, Skinner was unsure when he’d be able to work his way back into contact.
But for now, he’s taking it one day at a time.
“The next step is to see how I feel and respond to this skate,” he said. “It’s good that things are going in the right direction.”