Five things to watch: Jeff Skinner dazzles with Carolina

With a busy 10 games on the NHL schedule tonight, we get you prepared with our five things to watch, from Jeff Skinner to Jiri Hudler and more.

By Josh Elliott, Brian O’Neill and Gareth Bush
With a busy 10 games on the NHL schedule tonight, we get you prepared with our five things to watch, from Jeff Skinner to Jiri Hudler and more.

Skin in the game
He has six goals and 10 points in his past five games, he’s on a point-per-game pace and he never really entered the conversation for a spot on Team Canada. But boy, can Jeff Skinner play. The 21-year-old winger has been at the eye of the Carolina Hurricanes’ recent surge. The Canes have won four games in a row and Skinner has had multi-point nights in three of those four. Though he won’t be suiting up for Canada next month, he’ll still look to light up U.S. Olympic goaltender Ryan Miller and the lowly Sabres tonight in Buffalo.

Jets welcome blast from not-so-recent past
Call it throwback night in Winnipeg as the Jets host their former Southeast Division rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning, for the second of two tilts between the squads. The Jets are surely missing competition in the now-defunct South(l)east Division, as their move West has seen them struggle against a stronger conference. Last year, Winnipeg finished ninth in the East and missed the playoffs by four points. This year they’re 11th in the West. Winnipeg is a miserable 8-14-4 against Western Conference teams, compared to a solid 11-7-1 record against the East. They even beat the high-flying Lightning 2-1 in overtime in their last matchup Dec. 7. The Jets are 7-2-2 against the Bolts since moving to Winnipeg.

There’s no place like home
The Anaheim Ducks wish every game could be at home. The Ducks have yet to lose in regulation at the Honda Center, putting up a 17-0-2 home record. Anaheim has been on fire recently winning 13 of their past 14, including a current three-game winning streak. Over that time, left winger Nick Bonino has two goals and three assists. Center Ryan Getzlaf is fourth in league scoring with 48 points while linemate and buddy Corey Perry is not far behind with 44. After narrowly escaping Sunday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks with their record intact, the Ducks are in tough against the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins tonight.

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Bad breaks
The Minnesota Wild can’t shake the injury bug. With left winger Zach Parise and defenseman Jared Spurgeon already sidelined, the Wild were dealt yet another injury blow. Captain and team scoring leader Mikko Koivu will be out for the next four weeks after having ankle surgery on Monday. Koivu broke his ankle blocking a shot Saturday against the Washington Capitals, yet still finished the game. To make matters worse, goaltender Josh Harding is also on the injured reserve list as he continues to adjust to a new treatment for his multiple sclerosis. Harding currently leads the league with a 1.65 goals-against average. After coming out of the gate strong with a 13-4-4 start, injuries have helped drop the Wild to the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, tied with the Phoenix Coyotes at 49 points.

Coming in like a Czech-ing ball
It’s hard to believe that there would be an Olympic snub more mind-boggling than the USA’s omission of Bobby Ryan, but the Czech Republic may have pulled it off by excluding Jiri Hudler from their Sochi roster. The Flames forward leads all Czech wingers in points with 35 and is one of only two forwards on his club with a positive plus-minus rating. He tallied two points against the Avalanche last night, hours after learning of his Olympic omission. Keep watch for Hudler to continue taking out his frustration in Phoenix tonight as the Flames take on the Coyotes.