Jeff Skinner Sparking Carolina Hurricanes' Offensive Improvement

Mark JonesSenior Analyst IDecember 16, 2013

EDMONTON, AB - DECEMBER 10: Jeff Skinner #53, Manny Malhotra #22, Ryan Murphy #7 and Elias Lindholm #16 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrate after a goal in a game against the Edmonton Oilers on December 10, 2013 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
Andy Devlin/Getty Images

Jeff Skinner needed a few weeks to rediscover his groove, but the end result proved nothing short of spectacular.

After returning from a wrist injury on Nov. 21 following a nearly month-long absence, Skinner produced only two points and a minus-two rating in his first six games back. The unlikely yet nagging trade rumors that plagued his summer, originally dispelled by nine points in the season's first nine games, returned again with fervor.

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 14:  Jeff Skinner #53 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates the puck up ice while being chased by Tim Kennedy #34 of the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena on December 14, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty
Norm Hall/Getty Images

Then the charcoal of motivation caught fire beneath No. 53.

Skinner has ripped off eight goals and added two assists in the Hurricanes' last seven games.

Back-to-back three-point explosions against the Capitals and Predators boosted the 21-year-old to the top of the NHL's stars of the week.

Then, after two games off the box score, Skinner scored in three consecutive third periods as the 'Canes rallied back for at least a point in the final three games of their Western Conference road swing.

Jeff Skinner Game-by-Game Stats
Dec. 3 at WSH2137
Dec. 5 at NSH3036
Dec. 6 vs. SJS0002
Dec. 9 at VAN0005
Dec. 10 at EDM1123
Dec. 12 at CGY1017
Dec. 14 at PHX1014

Skinner is on a prorated 289-shot pace—his previous career high, set in 2010-11, is 215. He's tallied six or more shots on three occasions within this hot streak, something he accomplished only once in his first 16 matches.

No. 53 is also experiencing a significant upturn in statistical efficiency. His 53.6 Corsi rating over the last eight games (126 Corsi for, 109 against), per ExtraSkater data, is a noteworthy improvement over his 46.5 mark from the first 15 games.

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 05: The Carolina Hurricanes celebrate a goal by Jeff Skinner #53 against the Nashville Predators and 19:08 of the second period at the Bridgestone Arena on December 5, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty I
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The results are beginning to reflect throughout Carolina's entire offense.

The Hurricanes found themselves leading only the woeful Sabres in goals for late in November. They've picked up the pace tremendously since, however, surging up to 24th in the NHL in that regard.

Since hosting the Senators on Nov. 24, the 'Canes are averaging 3.09 goals per game—production that, if maintained over a full season, would currently rank sixth in the league.

Even more impressively, the club has also rattled off equal or more shot attempts (Corsi) than their opponent in six consecutive contests and seven of their last eight. See the game-by-game breakdown below:

Hurricanes' Game-by-Game Corsi
GameCorsi ForCorsi AgainstPercentage
Dec. 1 vs VAN443754.3%
Dec. 3 at WSH374346.3%
Dec. 5 at NSH452465.2%
Dec. 6 vs SJS615154.5%
Dec. 9 at VAN484054.5%
Dec. 10 at EDM494552.1%
Dec. 12 at CGY524155.9%
Dec. 14 at PHX525250.0%

Led by Skinner's ongoing scoring explosion along with Eric Staal's newfound consistency as the captain— sporting at least a point in 14 of his last 16 appearances—the 'Canes offense is sparking the team as a whole.

With points in the standings from six of their last seven games, loser point-aided Carolina currently holds a precarious but nonetheless present lead on the Metropolitan Division's third and final guaranteed playoff bid.

Once a much-needed, six-game break concludes on Friday, the Hurricanes will face a critical stretch of eight consecutive Eastern opponents. They'll need the offense to continue its steadiness more than ever.


Mark Jones has been a Carolina Hurricanes featured columnist for Bleacher Report since 2009. Visit his profile to read more, or follow him on Twitter.