Mar 21, 2013, 11:28 AM EDT
The struggling Carolina Hurricanes will get a big boost tonight — Tuomo Ruutu will make his season debut.
‘Canes head coach Kirk Muller made the announcement on Thursday morning, uplifting news given his team has lost four straight and is currently without starting goalie Cam Ward (knee), top defenseman Justin Faulk (knee), forward Chad LaRose (concussion) and bueliner Joe Corvo (lower body).
Ruutu, 30, has missed all 29 games this year after undergoing hip surgery in early January.
The procedure was supposed keep Ruutuu shelved for the year — “certainly through the regular season,” ‘Canes GM Jim Rutherford said at the time — but the gritty Finn has rehabbed strongly and appears well ahead of schedule.
Getting him back should help Carolina in several facets of the game.
Ruutu’s a solid scorer (18 goals, 34 points last season; 57 points in 2010-11) that provides a physical presence up front, leading all Carolina forwards in hits last year, with 151.
As for where he’ll play?
Muller was hesitant to break up the top line of Eric Staal–Alex Semin–Jiri Tlusty — the trio has been scoring in bunches — but suggested Ruutu could get a look on the team’s second line next to Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner.
“We need to see where [Ruutu] is at,” Muller told the Raleigh News and Observer. “If he comes back and he’s playing at the level he’s capable of, initially [the second line] is where you have him penciled in.”
- Fetisov wants to restrict young Russians from playing in the NHL 21
- All eyes on Lundqvist 9
- Quenneville opted for ‘fresh legs’ by inserting Nordstrom, Versteeg into lineup 10
- Video: Ducks hold off Blackhawks in Game 3 to take series lead 30
- (Video) PHT Extra: On Babcock, sticking to the process and housebuilding analogies 3
- Babcock predicts ‘pain’ for Leafs, who are a ‘massive, massive challenge’ 38
- Babcock wants to ‘put Canada’s team back on the map’ 47
- Flyers won’t trade Del Zotto, but ‘something will have to give’ on crowded blue line 21
- What’s wrong with Lundqvist? 70
- It goes to eleven: Lightning edge Rangers in track meet 34
- Reports: Sabres thought they had a deal with Babcock, aren’t happy (172)
- Leafs land Babcock with reported 8-year deal, estimated at $50 million (130)
- Russia to be punished for ‘completely out of order’ actions after Worlds final loss to Canada (90)
- Report: Sabres negotiating with Babcock (82)
- What’s wrong with Lundqvist? (70)