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Muller Will Get First Look at Brett Sutter

Thursday, 01.05.2012 / 12:32 PM / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
Brett Sutter will be headed back to Raleigh for his third National Hockey League stint this season, but it will be his first under head coach Kirk Muller.

Michael Smith
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Sutter’s last recall ended on Nov. 29, Muller’s first full day with the Carolina Hurricanes. During his four games with the Canes in November, Sutter had two assists and was even in plus/minus. Since returning to Charlotte, Sutter has experienced his most productive stretch of hockey this season with 8 points (3g, 5a) in 14 games.

“[Sutter] is a guy that’s played reliable up here. He’s hard-nosed,” Muller said. “It goes back to the message that we’re trying to preach right now: We have to have that tenacious mentality a little bit more. We have to be a little harder on the puck and harder with the puck.

“I’ve heard he’s done some good things that way when he’s up here, and we’ve got two opponents that play a hard game. I think it will be a good challenge and a good opportunity for him to come in and be the type of player that we’re speaking of and need right now.”

With how the lines fleshed out today in practice, Sutter will most likely be slotted in the fourth line center position between Anthony Stewart (who celebrates his 27th birthday today) and Andreas Nodl. It’s a spot he can naturally slide into.

With that move comes more line juggling. Muller moved Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu up to flank Eric Staal. For a complete list of the lines seen in today’s practice, click here.

“They are three veteran guys. It puts a little bit of an onus on them to lead the charge, and they should produce as the top line,” Muller said. “I didn’t want to touch [Sutter’s] line, and then we are just trying some different options on the third and fourth line that made sense.

“[Jokinen] has had some chemistry with [Staal], and [Ruutu] is playing hard. I think it’s important that you can establish that type of line.”

Some banged up bodies from Tuesday night’s game prevented Muller from making the line switch in yesterday’s practice. He was also waiting to here the prognosis on Jeff Skinner and Patrick Dwyer. They both skated in yellow, non-contact jerseys again today and are probably still a few days off from being cleared for contact.

When either of them returns to the lineup, we’ll most likely see some more line movement. But the sought after end result is the same: a strong and consistent compete level. When asked if Muller had been pleased with the team’s compete level as of late, he said, “Yes and no.”

“We have to understand that it’s competitive. If you let your guard down, you’re going to pay the price,” he said. “One of the big things that we’ve stressed the last couple of days is that competitive level doesn’t mean just finishing checks and playing hard. It’s mental, too.

“A lot of the … opportunities that go against us are because we put the puck in wrong areas,” Muller said. “I think puck awareness is so important in the game, and I think if we get stronger in that, it will give us a better control of the game.”

The Hurricanes take on the Buffalo Sabres tomorrow night before flying to Nashville for a match-up with the Predators on Saturday night. It’s the Hurricanes’ eight of sixteen back-to-back situations this season. In those games, they have a record of 6-6-2; 3-3-1 in the first game and 3-3-1 in the second.

Sutter will be up with the big club for both games. With Sunday a scheduled off-day, news on Skinner or Dwyer’s return most likely will wait until Monday in advance of the Hurricanes’ game with the Philadelphia Flyers at home on Tuesday.

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STANDINGS

[SSS_STANDINGS.METROPOLITAN_DIVISION_LABEL]
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
2 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
3 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
4 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
5 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
6 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
7 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
8 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 79 21 40 -13 61
J. Skinner 71 33 21 -14 54
A. Sekera 74 11 33 4 44
A. Semin 65 22 20 1 42
J. Staal 82 15 25 2 40
J. Faulk 76 5 27 -9 32
N. Gerbe 81 16 15 -6 31
J. Tlusty 68 16 14 2 30
R. Nash 73 10 14 0 24
P. Dwyer 75 8 14 -2 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Khudobin 19 14 1 .926 2.30
C. Ward 10 12 6 .898 3.06
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