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Skinner could return for Flyers, Muller says

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WINNIPEG -- Canes coach Kirk Muller said Thursday that forward Jeff Skinner, injured Tuesday against Ottawa, could return to the lineup Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Skinner absorbed an open-ice hit from Senators defenseman Jared Cowen and left the game in Ottawa with an upper-body injury. He returned to Raleigh on Wednesday for medical evaluations.

Muller said from the reports he had received he did not believe Skinner had any concussion issues. Skinner has been sidelined because of concussions in each of the past two seasons.

"He's being checked out today and we'll get some more results," Muller said. "But from what I've been told so far, we'll probably see him in the lineup by the weekend. So it's good so far."

The Canes have a back-to-back against Philadelphia at home Saturday and then Tampa Bay on the road, but Muller said it's possible Skinner could play Saturday.

The Canes (17-23-2) have won just two of the past 17 games but one of the victories was against the Jets at MTS Centre. Justin Peters, who will start in net again tonight, had 34 saves for the Hurricanes in a 3-1 victory on March 30.

With Skinner out tonight, the Canes in their morning skate had Eric Staal with Jiri Tlusty and Alex Semin; Jordan Staal centering Tuomo Ruutu and Chad LaRose; Riley Nash with Nicolas Blanchard and Pat Dwyer, and Kevin Westgarth and Tim Wallace as fourth-lne forwards. The Canes again will dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen.

The defensive pairs were: Tim Gleason-Justin Faulk, Jay Harrison-Joe Corvo and Bobby Sanguinetti-Jamie McBain, with Marc-Andre Bergeron as the extra defenseman.

The Canes can play the role of spoilers tonight against the Jets (22-19-2), who are pushing Washington in the Southeast Division and are locked in a tight fight for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference and a playoff berth. But Ruutu said it's more than that as the Canes play out the final six games of the regular season.

"I'm not a big believer that it will carry over into next year or anything, but most of all you have to have pride," Ruutu said. "We're in the NHL and we should appreciate that and work hard every night."

The Jets are finishing the regular season the way the Canes hoped to -- Winnipeg has won the past four games and is shooting for its first five-game win streak in two years.

Ondrej Pavelec will be in goal for the Jets tonight and will be making his ninth consecutive start. Pavelec was the loser in the March 30 game against Carolina, allowing three goals on 28 shots.

Muller again stressed the positives rather than dwell on the negatives of his team's late-season tailspin.

"We've been pleased with the way they've been playing through this stretch," Muller said. "They're been playing hard, playing with a lot of focus and energy.

"We've had some young guys in the lineup and what it's about for us is getting better every day and building with our core group and players, and not picking up any bad habits and playing the game the right way.

"In the past 14 or 15 games we quite honestly deserved points in 11 of the games. I think we only had three games where we didn't play well. So it has been frustrating."

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About the blogger

A Raleigh native, Chip has worked at the N&O since 1979 and is the Canes beat writer. He can be reached at chip.alexander@newsobserver.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @ice_chip.
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