Tracking the Storm
 
  • PRINT
  • RSS

Ruutu Answers the Call

Friday, 04.15.2011 / 9:53 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
X
Share with your Friends


Ruutu Answers the Call

The World Championship may not be the most prestigious international competition that there is, but when it comes to representing his country, Tuomo Ruutu just doesn’t say no.

Paul Branecky
Follow on Twitter

This spring’s event in Slovakia will mark Ruutu’s 10th major tournament for his native Finland. Since participating in the World Under-18 Championship in 2000, he’s worn his country’s colors in every year but two, skipping 2005 with an injury and 2009 when the Hurricanes made a run to the Eastern Conference Final. Also on his resume are three other World Championships, three World Junior Championships, a World Cup of Hockey and the 2010 Olympics.

“I always think it’s an honor when they ask you to play for your country,” he said. “I have fun doing it.”

That’s no surprise given the amount of success he’s had. Although he hasn’t won gold since 2000, he’s picked up three silver medals and five bronze medals along the way – one for each tournament he’s been a part of. He’s also done well on a personal level, scoring a total of 43 points (22g, 21a) in 66 games across all nine tournaments.

On the surface, all that makes Ruutu’s motivation to play yet another tournament somewhat surprising. For others, politics often play a role, with continued participation at the World Championships thought to be a consideration when making tough cuts for the Olympics. There’s also the chance to be able to represent one’s country when another opportunity may never arise.

Clearly, neither of those is true for Ruutu. Even coming off a physically-demanding season that featured its share of apparent bumps and bruises before ending in the most difficult way possible, there was never much of a choice to make.

He just wanted to play.

“It was too early to stop,” he said. “Five months without playing is too long to be thinking about next season. Being around the guys is one of the things you miss most, and it’s hard not being around your teammates for five months because I love my teammates.”

So far, Ruutu will be joined by Jeff Skinner (Canada) and defensive prospect Justin Kreuger (Germany) at the tournament. All three players are under contract for next season and are not married, which Ruutu acknowledged also plays a role.

“Everybody has their own reasons, and I understand it for guys that have kids because it’s a big commitment to have to go train for a few weeks and then play the tournament,” he said.

With invitations still being handed out and invited players still mulling over decisions, it’s possible that more in the Hurricanes organization could join the already-committed three, but it’s by no means a sure thing. Some of the other candidates are free agents this summer, which makes avoiding injury even more important.

For his part, Ruutu described himself as completely fit to play. Despite having had to step away from a few games down the stretch, he always returned and never missed a practice. He played all 82 contests for just the second time in his career and the first since his rookie season with Chicago in 2003-04, avoiding any major concerns such as the shoulder issues that plagued him last season, limiting him to just 54 contests.

“With the way I play, I’m never going to have a healthy season,” he said. “I’m lucky just to not need surgery.

“You have to have good luck. It’s unbelievable how some guys like Eric Staal can go 400 games in a row. I don’t think I’m going to be one of those iron men, but you never know.”

Thanks in large part to his health, Ruutu was able to post career highs in assists (38) and points (57). Still, with the disappointment of the Hurricanes’ last-day loss still fresh, he described his season as just “alright,” pointing to few stretches in which his point totals dipped.

He hopes that heading to the World Championship will help take his mind off of the way an otherwise successful season ended, if only for a few weeks.

“There’s nothing you can really do anymore or else you would have done it during the season,” he said. “I could’ve scored more goals or something like that.

“I’m going to remember this next year. At game 60, you might even try a little bit harder because you know it’s just as important as game 82.”


SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

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
K. Versteeg 63 11 22 -6 33
E. Staal 63 10 23 -3 33
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81