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Ruutu Playing to his Strengths

Wednesday, 01.5.2011 / 10:30 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Ruutu Playing to his Strengths
Scoring binges don’t come much more quietly than the one Tuomo Ruutu recently enjoyed. That’s exactly the way he and his coach like it.

Paul Branecky
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In the Hurricanes’ last five games, Ruutu’s 8 points (2 goals, 6 assists) rank first on the team. That stretch includes a four-point performance on New Year’s Day against New Jersey and only one game in which he did not record a point - the Canes’ most recent contest against Florida.

What one might notice about that streak, or perhaps didn’t notice, was that flashy plays were few and far between. There were no end-to-end rushes or fancy dekes. Only fervent fans of cycling down low and strong presence around the net would be deeply moved by any of the Finnish forward’s recent scoring plays.

While he may not be earning style points, it seems that a rededication to his bread and butter is what’s allowed Ruutu to resume putting up points where it matters.

“He has to trust himself to just do simple things as fast as he can, and when he does that he’s got a good little set of finishing hands,” said Hurricanes’ coach Paul Maurice. “He can make good plays at the end, but where he gets in trouble sometimes is when he tries to make them at the beginning of the play. He just needs both strength and speed, which is what he has.”

Ruutu’s 28 points now rank tied with Jeff Skinner for second on the team behind captain Eric Staal, but he had not been scoring nearly as consistently early in the season. He had just 2 points in the team’s first eight games and had another dry spell in late November and early December in which he scored no goals and logged just 2 assists over a six-game period.

“I thought there was a lot of overly-creative, low-payoff stuff that he was trying,” said Maurice.

In order to help Ruutu get back to what makes him most successful, Maurice had to send a different message than he normally uses with scorers that are struggling to score.

“That’s the difficulty when you get a guy like that,” he said. “Most guys you bring them in and say that the simple reason that you’re not producing is you’re not working hard enough. With him, that’s never the case. It’s a matter of simplifying what he does with the puck.” 

“I’m not the type of player that can do things by myself,” agreed Ruutu. “Skinner and Staal are guys that can do damage on their own like that, but I’m playing my best game when my linemates are using each other.”

That seems to be the case at the moment, with Maurice calling Ruutu’s line with Skinner and Chad LaRose the team’s best in the win over New Jersey for their patient work down low and usage of the points to create shots and traffic in front of the net.

“On that line now, we’ve got a little bit of everything,” said Maurice. “Ruutie is a big banger, Rosie can control the puck and hang onto it and Skinner can make plays and score.”

Speaking of physical play, Ruutu posted a game-high eight hits against Florida, showing he can still make an impact in the recently rare occasions that he does not register a point.

Ruutu’s scoring run would seem to at least partially coincide with a move back to the right wing position that he’s occupied for the vast majority of his 416-game NHL career, save for the beginning of his rookie season with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2003-04 and a handful of games this season.

He says he’s comfortable either way, but feels that playing on the wing allows him to get where he’s most comfortable and where almost all of his recent points have come – in front of the net.

“I feel like I get better chances to score when I’m on the wing and can go straight to the net because I’m not the first guy coming into the zone,” he said. “At center you come in with more speed, so that’s good too.”


SCHEDULE

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AWAY
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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Skinner 82 28 23 -2 51
V. Rask 80 21 27 -6 48
J. Staal 82 20 28 6 48
E. Lindholm 82 11 28 -23 39
J. Faulk 64 16 21 -22 37
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
N. Hanifin 79 4 18 -14 22
J. Slavin 63 2 18 1 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81