Raleigh, N.C. -- If there is such a thing as a sophomore jinx, Carolina Hurricane forward Jeff Skinner isn’t experiencing it just yet.
It may be hard to believe but Skinner, just 19-years-old, is on pace better last season’s offensive totals, when he compiled 63 points and won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. He leads Carolina this year with 21 points, - nine goals and 12 assists - and is on pace to hit 74 points.
“Another year stronger, another year older,” the Toronto native said Friday after the Hurricane’s morning skate in preparation for Friday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets.
As for the sophomore jinx, Skinner tries not to think about it.
“Mentally you don’t want to put too much pressure on yourself or start thinking about that kind of stuff,” he said. “Obviously there’s going to be highs and lows. You are going to go through slumps, you are going to go through hot streaks. You just sort of have to keep an even keel and keep it all in perspective. It’s a long season and there’s a lot of time to just sort of get too wrapped up in one game.”
Skinner spent a lot of years growing up playing minor hockey in the Greater Toronto Hockey League, but he also credits his years in figure skating for much of his current prowess. His parents put him in figure skating at the age of six and he won a bronze medal at the Canadian junior figure skating championships.
“I think obviously just sort of feeling more comfortably on my skates from figure skating and skating that much as a kid,” he said Friday. “There’s parts to figure skating, there are sort of little moves that are in my game I think just because of instinct. And I grew up doing those...It has just sort of become part of my game.”
Friday’s game is an important match up for both the Hurricanes and the Jets. They are tied with 20 points in the Southeast Division along with Tampa Bay. And coming into Friday all three teams are only three points out of a playoff spot.
“We both like to think that there’s lots of room for everybody [in the playoffs]” Hurricane coach Paul Maurice said Friday. “But the fact of the matter is when you get down to it there are all kinds of usual suspects there at the top five and then every body else is just scratching and clawing to get in. So these games are huge.”
Jets coach Claude Noel agreed saying winning would give his club two points and take two away from Carolina. “This is a division game for us, we would like to make this a clean win if we could make it.”
The Jets got some good news from the NHL last night after league officials said they would not punish defenceman Zach Bogosian for his hit on Cody Eakin of the Washington Capitals on Wednesday. Although the hit was too the head, the league ruled that Bogosian had already committed to the play and did nothing intentional. He will get a warning from the league.
“I’m happy with their decision,” Bogosian said Friday. “I’m just glad that they understood where I was coming from on that play. I’m not the type of player that would target someone’s head.”
The Jets will start Chris Mason in goal. He hasn’t played since Oct. 27 when he came in for Ondrej Pavelec in a wild 9-8 Jets win over Philadelphia. Mason only played for a short while before injuring his groin.
“I’m really looking forward to playing,” Mason said Friday after the Jets morning skate. “It has been a while. I’m looking forward to getting back and into a game.”