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Skinner and Khudobin Hold Down the Fort

Jeff Skinner records his second career hat-trick and goaltender Anton Khudobin continues his winning streak.

Hazardous blizzard-like conditions in Buffalo, New York stopped the Carolina Hurricanes from being able to advance to five straight wins as they were to face the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night. The team returned to Raleigh Wednesday and faced the Tim Gleason and the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday night. The Hurricanes proceeded to five straight wins in a 6-1 victory over the Maple Leafs.

Jeff Skinner is having an unprecedented season since he returned from injury. In his last 17 games Skinner has totaled 17 goals and 7 assists accumulating 24 points. Skinner's numbers this season have not only allowed him to receive the honor of being named the NHL’s first star of the week in December and started off January the same way. In the first week of January, Skinner recorded his second career hat-trick, not even a month removed from his first. However, this should come as no surprise. At the 2011 NHL All Star Game, Skinner was the youngest player to play in the game since Steve Yzerman, both of them being 18 at the time. Skinner also won the Rookie-of-the-Year award that season. What is surprising is the fact that Skinner has out-preformed his draft class colleagues. I bet the Edmonton Oilers, Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Islanders, and Tampa Bay Lightning all feel pretty silly for passing on Skinner.

Jeff Skinner Hat Trick (via NHL)

Although Skinner wasn’t named to Team Canada for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, his recent astonishing efforts were acknowledged by Team Canada. "They said, ‘We won’t be naming you to the team, thanks for your hard work and keep up the good work,’ " Skinner said. "That’s a pretty classy move, I think." Skinner’s delayed start to the season may have been the difference maker for the Markham, Ontario native.

Much of the credit for the Hurricanes’ success in the last month can be attributed to Jeff Skinner and, in most recent games, No. 53 and goaltender Anton Khudobin. Skinner’s shots on goal compared to last year have almost doubled. You can’t score goals if you don’t get pucks on net, right? The 21-year-old is getting more open lanes to the net and more shot opportunities, possibly as a result of being able to keep his head up, which was somewhat of an issue for him in previous years. Khudobin is playing for the starting position and it seems that the Canes play better in front of Peters and Khudobin than Cam Ward. Five wins have been the end result with Anton Khudobin in net with a 1.84 Goals Against Average and a save percentage of .943. Ward and Peters have both seen more shots than Khudobin, but did either of them have six wins in the first six games they started?

A competitive outing for the starting goalie position is always good for a team. Khudobin is very hot right now and if his performance stays consistent, Cam Ward may have to work harder for the starting position when he returns from injury. Jeff Skinner has really helped push the Hurricanes back into a competitive edge. Will he be able to keep up his performance for the rest of the season?