Thursday, March 21, 2013
How Ruutu can help 'Canes (update)
By Luke Lapinski
UPDATE: Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer confirms Tuomo Ruutu will make his season debut for the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday versus the New Jersey Devils. As a warm-up, Ruutu is expected to skate on a line with Tim Brent and Adam Hall.
The Carolina Hurricanes have quietly dropped three of five to fall out of first in the Southeast Division. And, right now, second in that division puts a team squarely in the No. 8 spot in the conference playoff race. In other words, there's not much margin for error.
Kirk Muller's squad could be getting some good news though. Tuomo Ruutu got back out on the ice with his teammates late last week, and looks to be closing in on a return. The 30-year old Finn hasn't played since the club's season finale last April because of hip issues, but traveled with his teammates to New York for their tilt with the Rangers. And, even if he doesn't suit up for that one tonight, he appears to be pretty close to playing again soon.
With Cam Ward out for essentially the rest of the season, Carolina's best bet may be to win games with offense. At the moment, the team is averaging 3.04 goals per game (No. 6 in the NHL), and Ruutu only figures to help that number. He broke the 50-point barrier in two of his last three full seasons, and has notched 53 power play points since joining the club late in the 2007-08 campaign. Chip Alexander of the Raleigh Observer suggests we could eventually see Ruutu on a top-six line with Jeff Skinner and Jordan Staal once he gets back up to full speed again. And, if he can help out with the man advantage, that would be a real plus as the 'Canes are currently converting just 13 percent of the time -- No. 29 in the league.