Skinner Stops Speedy Sharks

Jeff Skinner scored twice in Friday night’s Carolina Hurricanes win versus the San Jose Sharks.

In a game like all of them at this point it was a must-win for the ‘Canes. Skinner showed that at times he can still be the difference that his team needs to get a victory. It was a welcome sight for the fans, as the Sharks brought their usual fast-paced hockey, and looking determined to leave Raleigh with two points in hand.

Skinner now has 21 goals on the season, combined with 13 assists for 34 total points. He is currently leading the team in goals. At times he has shown flashes of the Skinner ‘Canes fans have grown accustomed to seeing, and at time he has played far below his talent level.

The previous experience Skinner has had with concussions has changed his play quite a bit going back to last season, but when he is able to find an opening he is still very capable of filling it with the puck. He got by Sharks goalie Martin Jones twice, his first time being the game-winner. However, it took a coach’s challenge from ‘Canes head coach Bill Peters to confirm the goal.

Jones played a good game, stopping 32 of 36 shots from the Hurricanes. The goal that was in question came :39 seconds into the third period with the ‘Canes on the power play. Eric Staal described the play after the game:

“I’m glad we have that opportunity to challenge because I was really confused as to what he was trying to call there. I took it right across the front of the net, taking it to the net trying to make a play. I think he thought I pulled the goaltender as far as hooked him, but I never touched him. It was a great play by Skinny getting to the net and attacking. It was the right call and a big goal.”

It was a big goal as Skinner put the Hurricanes in front 3-2. The Sharks are not an easy team to beat, especially when they are on the road. The have the second-best road record in the NHL, and play at a very fast pace, typical of good Western Conference teams.

In fact the first period of the game looked a lot like a playoff game with the Sharks bringing such a fierce, rapid pace. To their credit, this ‘Canes team matched the tempo, and were not on their heels like last season’s team might have been. With no penalties, the first period was almost a blur, great hard and fast hockey between two teams in the playoff hunt.

Cam Ward is Back

After leaving the game last Saturday night against the New York Islanders, Cam Ward made his return against the Sharks. Ward has quietly been doing work. According to the Hurricanes’ website, “It’s been since Dec. 29 that Cam Ward has lost in regulation. Since, he’s posted a 6-0-4 record, a 1.90 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.” Ward saved 22 out of 24 Sharks shots, and played very well in his return.

Ward has been stout for the ‘Canes for the most part. It will be extremely interesting to see what happens to him as the trade deadline approaches and his contract runs out this season. With a no-trade clause, he is likely to stay in Carolina, but then again it is all still very much up in the air, especially with all of the interest on Eric Staal and his contract.

Skinner Salts it Away

With the likes of Joe Thornton and Brent Burns and the cast of scoring characters that make up a very good Sharks roster, 3-2 was by no means a score that the ‘Canes could relax with. Skinner provided some breathing room with this nice goal:

Skinner again looked to be in great form, being in the right place to take a rebound and smack it in past Jones. The ‘Canes got a much-needed two points and critical bounce-back win after Thursday night’s loss to the Ottawa Senators. Eric Staal described the team’s situation best after the game:

“We’re fighting and scratching to pick up points. We’ve got to fight, win and pick up points every night. Other teams in our division are doing the same.”

Every game is important for the Hurricanes. If Skinner can keep finding his way to the net, it will be a huge plus in helping the team work toward a playoff spot.