RALEIGH, N.C. – The question of who would step up to score goals was placed in the queue following practice at Carolina Hurricanes training camp last Friday.
Carolina Hurricanes Bill Peters called for more goals following back-to-back preseason losses to Washington and Pittsburgh in which the team was outscored 9-3 combined earlier last week.
He expected the goals to come, and added that certain individuals would need to step up to do so.
Forward Jeff Skinner answered that call, finishing with two goals, including the game-winner in a 5-3 decision over the New York Islanders in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Saturday.
He had tallied his first goal of the preseason in the 7-3 loss to the Penguins.
“I thought Jeff Skinner was hard on pucks in the offensive zone and got rewarded for it,” Peter said following the win over the Islanders.
“A step in the right direction.”
It was a smaller group of 33 that traveled to Canada as the team made a large round of cuts, 16 in total, while Skinner and the others were on the ice practicing Friday morning.
Following the session, as players, equipment personnel, and coaching staff alike were all hustling around to get packed and making final preparations to make the trip to the Canadian Maritimes, Skinner sat in his stall still wearing half of his equipment.
He didn’t look rushed – more pensive, if anything – just sitting there on his own.
He provided some insight on what didn’t work earlier in the week and what needed to happen over the weekend with a smaller and more focused group playing together.
“Obviously not happy with ourselves,” Skinner said.
“At camp we wanna fix some things that we did wrong. Because you get the numbers down, you get more familiar with guys just because there’s not as much switching up the lines as there was previously. There’s still gonna be because of the amount of guys we still shave – with guys getting mixed with different guys. The focus is to improve on the last two games.”
Skinner provided some insight on his understanding of what’s expected of him during camp, particularly as a young, but experienced fifth-year player.
“I think it’s sort of a process as you get older,” Skinner continued.
“You know more things, so you’re expected to know more. I think just comin’ in and sort of learn from things you’ve learned in the past and build off of that base that you’ve built for yourself.”
While youth has traditionally looked up to experience for guidance, Skinner provided an interesting take on who he draws examples from in the dressing room.
While looking up to someone like captain Eric Staal, the team’s longest tenured scorer, as well as other longer-standing NHL veterans in the room who’ve won the Stanley Cup, like newly acquired forward Kris Versteeg, Skinner also didn’t ignore the intangibles that newer players can present.
“Everyone goes through their careers with different sets of circumstances, different adversities, different stages in life, just like anyone in any capacity,” Skinner said.
“You sorta’ learn from older guys, you learn from younger guys, you learn from everyone I think as you go along. You pick up different things from different guys. Those older guys are pretty successful and they’ve been in the league a long time, and that’s a credit to them. Obviously, they’re doin’ something right, so if you can pick something up from those guys, that’s great. And, if you can pick up something from the younger guys comin’ in, you learn from everyone and try and apply it to your game and yourself as a person.”
For Peters, coming off of two preseason road wins was encouraging, and mentioned Skinner’s play again following Sunday’s game, even though he didn’t score in that game.
“Jeff Skinner was very good,” Peters said.
“I thought he got better as the game went along. He needs to have a good preseason and carry that into the regular season. I know he was disappointed the way the season ended last year. He’s come back in great shape and he’s committed. He’s scored the majority of his goals, which so far have been right around the blue paint – the same place he scored in his rookie year. So I like the fact that he’s goin’ to the net and stayin’ at the net.”
As Peters called, so Skinner responded.