Tracking the Storm

Muller Will Get First Look at Brett Sutter

Thursday, 01.5.2012 / 12:32 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Muller Will Get First Look at Brett Sutter
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.

SCHEDULE

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72