By: Adam Gretz
PITTSBURGH -- On Tuesday night Carolina's Jeff Skinner was playing in just his second game back in the lineup after missing the previous 16 with a concussion.
That's why it had to be tough for the Hurricanes to watch as their 19-year-old star forward was on the receiving end of a punishing open-ice hit from Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik midway through the third period of their 2-1 shootout loss to the Penguins.
This is the hit that resulted in a two-minute minor penalty to Orpik for interference.
Skinner stayed on the ice for a few seconds and was eventually able to skate off on his own power, and even showed some frustration as he went to the locker room, breaking his stick as he walked down the tunnel.
He remained out of the game for a few minutes before ultimately returning, and was even sent out for a shootout attempt by coach Kirk Muller.
"I saw him coming," said Skinner after the game. "I thought I could chip it and get by him, and when I realized I couldn't I tried to get my hands up to protect myself as quick as possible. I felt fine the rest of the game. Doctor talked to me, asked me some questions, we went through some tests and took our time and went back out there."
When asked if he felt if there was any contact with his head, Skinner said "I don't know. I looked at the replay when I was in the room and it didn't look like it. I think I got my hands up and if there was any contact I think my hands hit my head. I just kind of stayed down there and tried to collect my thoughts and not rush getting back up. It was a pretty good hit."
Of course, the penalty call on the ice resulted in quite a few surprising developments. When it happened in real-time, and without the benefit of a replay, it was almost as if there was an expectation that it was going to be a major penalty just because it was such a big, open-ice hit, combined with the fact there was a player down on the ice. But as the replay showed, it was not only a good body-to-body check, it also shouldn't have even been a penalty for interference as Skinner clearly touched the puck prior to being hit.
Orpik said that the referee apologized to him following the overtime period and before the shootout for making an incorrect call.
The reaction in the Hurricanes locker room after the game was one of relief (after some initial concern) after seeing one of their top-offensive weapons go down so hard in front of their bench, so soon after he was able to return to the lineup.
"Anytime something like that happens you hold your breath," said Hurricanes captain Eric Staal. "Orpik's a guy that's physical, and he's stepping up, and that's his game. There has to be an awareness of that, and it's one of those situations where on our side we don't like it, for their side they're calling it a clean hit. We're just glad that he came back and recouped in the room."
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