A Carolina Hurricanes team that has struggled to score goals in losing four of their last five games should get a boost tonight with the return of young forward Jeff Skinner, who has missed five games with a concussion. Defensemen Tim Gleason and Jamie McBain are also expected to return for tonight’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Hurricanes will try to get a big win and get back on track in the Eastern Conference standings.
Skinner had seven goals and 14 points for the Hurricanes before suffering a concussion in the team’s Feb. 14 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. With the exception of a 4-2 win over the New York Islanders on Sunday, the Hurricanes have struggled to score goals in Skinner’s absence and have been shut out twice (by the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals). Skinner is tied for third on the team in scoring, trailing Eric Staal (nine goals, 19 points) and Jordan Staal (four goals, 15 points). The Hurricanes could use the boost to their power play that Skinner will provide, as Carolina has converted just one of 14 chances in his absence. The former Calder Trophy winner’s versatility is also a key to the team’s success as he can play at center or on the wing.
A defense that gave up 40 shots in the loss to the Capitals could definitely use the help that Gleason and McBain will provide in their return. Rookie Ryan Murphy has proven capable of playing big minutes at the NHL level, but with Joni Pitkanen still out the Hurricanes could use a veteran presence to shore up things along the blue line.