By: Adam Gretz
The Carolina Hurricanes would rather see Jeff Skinner using his hands to score goals as opposed to punching people in the face, and for obvious reasons: he's much better -- and a lot more experienced -- at the former, and his goal-scoring brings his team significantly more value.
Skinner, the NHL's rookie of the year last season, was involved in his first NHL fight on Friday night when he dropped the gloves with Columbus defenseman Kris Russell early in the first period of Carolina's 3-2 loss. Seeing his 19-year-old forward in that situation -- one that he's not used to being in, of course -- and risking injury couldn't have been a happy time for Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice.
After all, Skinner is going to be relied on to be one of Carolina's top goal-scoring threats after finishing second on the team (trailing only Eric Staal) with 31 in his debut season. Not only do the Hurricanes not want to see him get injured in a fight, the fact it was a preseason game had to make it even worse.
Said Maurice after the game, "I like his enthusiasm but that's his one for the year for me."
In other words: Don't ever do it again.
Skinner admitted that it "wasn't much of a fight" and also joked that he was "lucky to come out of it with his face unscathed."
If he was going to pick an opponent for his first bout, he certainly could have done a lot worse. While Russel has a bit more experience when it comes to fighting, he's not exactly a heavyweight around the NHL (his opponents at the NHL level have included Skinner, Phil Kessel, Patrick Eaves and Vladimir Sobotka, according to hockeyfights.com) and Skinner actually had the size advantage weighing in 5-foot-11 and 193 pounds, compared to the 5-foot-10, 172-pound Russell. So he had that going for him.
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