Brandon and Brett Sutter are cousins by birth and professional hockey players by trade, albeit on different career paths.
Brandon Sutter, the first-round draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2007, has become a fixture in the Canes' lineup. Slowed by an arm injury early in the season, he's now back to full strength, back to being one of the team's most effective and efficient two-way forwards.
Sutter's goal 26 seconds into the third period Thursday jumpstarted the Canes' comeback against the Atlanta Thrashers that ended with Carolina winning 3-2 in a shootout. Sutter has goals in two of the past three games, all victories, as Carolina (14-12-4) heads into tonight's home game against the Anaheim Ducks.
"Brandon was significantly injured," Canes coach Paul Maurice said. "It's a credit to him that at such a young age he decided he was going to play with it.
"Young players kind of set their pain threshold early in their careers - what they're willing to play with and what they have to play with. He was hurting and he played through it and now he's feeling pretty strong."
Brett Sutter, 23, is two years older than Brandon. The forward now plays for the Charlotte Checkers, the Canes' American Hockey League affiliate, after being traded last month by the Calgary Flames.
Brett Sutter suffered a setback this year, as well, although it caused anguish, not physical pain.
On Nov. 11, while playing for the Flames, Sutter was involved in an incident at a bar in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was charged with punching a cab driver and said to be intoxicated.
Sutter, the son of Flames general manager Darryl Sutter, later offered a public apology, saying: "My background is one of hard work and respect, so this incident is totally out of character for me." But his days in Calgary soon ended.
On Nov. 17, Sutter was part of the deal that sent defenseman Ian White to the Canes in exchange for forward Tom Kostopoulos and Anton Babchuk. It was a jolt to Sutter's system - Calgary drafted him in 2005 - but also presented a new start with a new organization.
"It was a little different after being in the [Calgary] organization since I was 17," he said. "It's nothing you expect or see coming, but at the same time it was probably good for me to get out of that spotlight and quit having people ask me questions.
"Just come and play and try to create my own path, so to speak. It's nice to come here and create my own identity."
As a Sutter, much is expected. Brett is one of nine Sutters to be drafted into the NHL, including his father and uncle Brent Sutter, the Flames coach and Brandon's father.
"It's something I grew up with," Brett Sutter said, smiling. "To me it wasn't a big deal."
But the incident in Arizona? That was a pretty big deal.
"It was one of those things that was unfortunate," Sutter said. "Anyone who knows me knows that's not my personality, that's not me.
"You learn from it and try to benefit from it and move on. There's not a whole lot else you can do but grow from the situation. It happened and it's over with."
Checkers coach Jeff Daniels said he knows little of circumstances of the incident, noting only that Sutter's play and conduct have been exemplary.
"We've dealt with it, and he's a real solid person, on and off the ice," Daniels said. "He's very focused, and obviously with his background from the family, growing up around the game, he knows how to handle himself."
Brett Sutter, listed at 6 feet and 200 pounds, isn't a big point producer but is more of a gritty, defensive-minded type.
"He's a pretty good skater," Brandon Sutter said. "Kind of a shorter guy, but he's thick and stocky. He plays a physical, grinding game and is a good third- and fourth-line player.
"I think he's enjoying the new environment in Charlotte. He's pretty excited. I think he has a chance to be a pretty good player at this level."
Brett and Brandon Sutter once were teammates in junior hockey, playing for the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. Brett said they've always talked and texted, but that the phone traffic has increased.
"We have a little more in common now, I guess," he said, again smiling. "Hopefully I'll get a chance to play with him again one day. It'd be fun."
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