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Jeff Skinner Leading Hurricanes Back Into The Playoff Hunt
- Updated: January 13, 2014
For much of the season the Carolina Hurricanes have drifted aimlessly near the bottom of the pack in the wreck that is the Metropolitan Division. Despite playing in arguably the weakest division the club at one time appeared destined for another long offseason, without playoff hockey.
But with a new year came new hope and a recent five game winning streak beginning on New Year’s Eve with a thrilling overtime victory over Montreal catapulted Carolina back into contention. Despite a 3-0 whitewashing at the hands of the Blue Jackets in their latest outing, the Hurricanes (as of Sunday morning) now find themselves only three points out of third place in the Metropolitan and two points out of the final Wild Card spot.
So what’s been the biggest catalyst for the turnaround? Jeff Skinner, the oft-injured former Calder Trophy winner, is finally enjoying a run of good health. Thankfully for the Hurricanes faithful he is making the most of it.
Skinner actually led the league in scoring for the month of December and in his past 19 games Skinner has put up an astounding 24 points on the strength of 17 goals and 7 assists. Despite the fact that Skinner has missed nearly 25% of the campaign to this point, that hot streak has served to vault Jeff into a tie for the team scoring lead (35 points).
“…He’s an opportunist. He’s finding the holes now, and it’s great because not only is he scoring but he’s scoring big goals for us.” – Hurricanes Coach Kirk Muller, on Skinner’s recent production via Yahoo Sports.
The Hurricanes certainly need that production. While Alexander Semin and Jordan Staal struggle to provide the production the club hoped to receive from them, Skinner continues to pick up the slack, seemingly dragging the squad toward playoff contention.
It’s hard to imagine the streaky Skinner can maintain the incredible pace he’s currently enjoying but if the Hurricanes can get some of their other offensive threats going, it’s not difficult to envision the squad hanging around in the playoff race given the relative weakness of the Eastern Conference.
If the Hurricanes ultimately qualify for the dance Muller’s club can likely look back on Skinner’s incredible tear as a vital turning point for the 2013-’14 season.