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Tracking the Storm

Gleason, Ruutu Finally get to Playoffs

Wednesday, 04.8.2009 / 3:13 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Gleason, Ruutu Finally get to Playoffs
Having won the Stanley Cup just three years ago, the Canes have a number of players with significant playoff experience.

Paul Branecky
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Rod Brind’Amour and Ray Whitney, two important leadership components of the 2006 team, haven’t gone anywhere. Eric Staal and Cam Ward have only been in the playoffs once, but accomplished more in that year than most do in a career.

Frantisek Kaberle, Chad LaRose, and Niclas Wallin are still around. Erik Cole and Matt Cullen left the team for one reason or another, but not for long. 

Although it was with other clubs, Joe Corvo, Patrick Eaves and Sergei Samsonov have all been to the finals. Joni Pitkanen made it to the final four with Philadelphia prior to the lockout.

When looking at the experience of this team, almost all the core players have been there before – except for two.

Tim Gleason and Tuomo Ruutu will make their first appearance in the NHL postseason next week. At 26 years of age and in only their fifth year in the league, they aren’t old by any means. Still, given how important they are to the success of this year’s team – Ruutu plays on the top forward line and Gleason on the top defensive pairing – the opportunity seems like a long time coming.

“It’s huge,” said Ruutu of finally getting to the playoffs after missing out three times with Chicago and once with Carolina. “It’s been frustrating because you play to win, and I want to test myself and see how I’m going to do.”

“It’s a really fun time of year,” said Gleason, who spent his first two seasons with Los Angeles before coming to the Hurricanes. “I’m looking forward to my first time and my first opportunity here.”

What’s ironic about those two never having been to the playoffs is that, out of everyone on the team, their game may be most suited to them. Both play a grinding, physical style that should help the Canes immensely in the second season.

“You would expect that kind of hockey,” said Coach Paul Maurice. “They bang a little bit and compete real hard on a nightly basis. I’m not expecting a whole lot of nerves out of those two guys because that hockey is built for them.”

Missing the cut last season was especially difficult for Gleason and Ruutu, who were preparing for the playoffs last season before a late charge by division rival Washington knocked them out in the final days of last season – a campaign in which they had been pacing the Southeast virtually the entire way.

While that stung at the time, it may have played a key role in what has happened in 2009.

“Last year, to be honest, was the biggest disappointment I’ve ever had,” said Ruutu. “We were so close to the playoffs and I was so excited about it, and all of the sudden you’re out by two points. I think that’s probably been the difference this year. Guys remember that feeling in the locker room. It drives you and makes you try even harder.”

Although they’ve never been there in the NHL, both players have had success in other leagues and formats.

Ruutu has excelled in eight major international tournaments with his native Finland, winning one gold, one silver and two bronze medals while twice serving as a team captain and twice leading the team in scoring.

Gleason, a big time point producer in junior hockey, racked up 20 points in 16 playoff games for the Windsor Spitfires in 2002 – a notable increase in his points-per-game pace from the regular season and an indication that he can step it up when it matters most.

“I don’t know what the playoffs are like obviously, but I’m familiar to what the playoffs are,” said Gleason. “Even though I haven’t played, I watch, and I’ve been in playoffs prior to that in other leagues.”

With the combination of veteran savvy from the older players and first-time enthusiasm from those two, the Canes have a mix that they like heading into this year’s postseason.

“There’s some excitement there on both ends,” said Maurice. “The guys that have been to the playoffs know how fun this is, and then there’s a little wide-eyed excitement about getting into it. They’ve earned it, they’ve played well to get there and it will be exciting for them.”

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - MTL 77 47 22 8 203 174 102
2 x - NYR 75 47 21 7 228 177 101
3 x - TBL 77 47 23 7 249 201 101
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 DET 75 40 23 12 220 206 92
7 WSH 76 41 25 10 223 188 92
8 BOS 76 38 25 13 201 196 89
9 OTT 75 37 26 12 218 203 86
10 FLA 76 35 26 15 190 207 85
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 76 31 33 12 168 194 74
14 CAR 75 28 36 11 174 204 67
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 76 21 47 8 148 255 50

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 70 21 28 -12 49
J. Faulk 75 15 32 -17 47
E. Lindholm 74 16 21 -19 37
J. Skinner 70 18 13 -21 31
V. Rask 73 11 20 -12 31
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
N. Gerbe 71 8 17 -13 25
J. McClement 75 7 13 -3 20
A. Nestrasil 47 7 13 4 20
J. Staal 39 4 16 -7 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 20 21 5 .911 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 15 6 .904 2.60