Edmonton Oilers: Stuart Skinner reacts to first start of the season

Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

Stuart Skinner made his second NHL start on Tuesday night. Here’s what he said following the Edmonton Oilers’ 4-2 loss to Detroit.

Stuart Skinner‘s first start with the Edmonton Oilers this season was set up much like his NHL debut last year. The 23-year-old made his debut against the Ottawa Senators in the team’s 11th game, and he allowed five goals on 38 shots faced.

The Oilers backed Skinner’s shaky debut with eight goals, but the former third-round pick in 2017 had essentially no time to prepare for the moment. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no preseason, and AHL play had yet to start, so Skinner was more or less thrown into the fire.

Flash forward to this season, and the Edmonton native was recalled after Mike Smith went down with an injury in mid-October. The difference between this year and last was Skinner had a full training camp under his belt and had already made two starts for Bakersfield of the AHL prior to coming up.

He stopped 35 of the 38 shots sent in his direction and made a couple of critical saves early in the game against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. Unfortunately, the Oilers’ offense came out flat, and Vladislav Namestnikov tallied two goals off the Edmonton netminder.

He will likely be remembered for his misplay behind the net with just under six minutes remaining in the second period. Skinner went to play the puck off the end boards, but it took an awkward bounce right back in front of the goal for Wings’ forward Dylan Larkin, who tapped it in uncontested.

“Just fanned on it,” Skinner admitted after the game. “Hard fan, bad timing. If that didn’t happen, we’d probably potentially still be playing. It sucks. It was a big goal. At the same time, it happens. Move forward and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“Believe it or not, I’ve made a worse play before in my career and we ended up winning the game. I just kind of look back to that. There’s always a chance to come back and win a game. We battled really hard in the third period and almost got it.”

While the Oilers have three goalies on their five-game roadtrip, including Smith, there could be the potential for Skinner to get another start before the veteran netminder returns to the lineup.

Mikko Koskinen is probably a good bet to start against the Boston Bruins on Thursday after allowing five goals to the Rangers on Friday.

Still, Tuesday was an overall positive for Skinner, who said he felt much more comfortable in his second start.

“For me, I felt like I belonged,” he added. “I think that’s huge. Playing my first game was a little shaky. After this game, I feel a lot better about my game. I’ve been preparing for this for quite some time now. I felt like I was game-ready. I think that was a huge help going into my second NHL start.”

With Smith practicing again on Wednesday, it appears the 39-year-old is close to returning. Skinner is expected to be sent back to Bakersfield, where he will get regular playing time. Koskinen is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, so Skinner could be well on his way to being the future number one goaltender in Edmonton.