'Finns & Skins' line suddenly scoring for Canes

Ruutu's resurgence makes line Canes' hottest

calexander@newsobserver.comOctober 27, 2011 

— The subject was goal scoring, and how some players can't seem to find the back of the net, then suddenly can't miss it.

"A lot of it is confidence, I think," Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner said Wednesday. "I think that sort of comes with hot streaks - that confidence.

"The game happens so fast and you have to make such quick decisions that you can't really think about it out there. Sometimes you have it and sometimes you're fighting it. The times you're fighting it is when you have to bear down and try to keep it simple and go from there."

Skinner wasn't talking specifically about teammate Tuomo Ruutu, but he could have been. Ruutu had said much the same about his game.

Ruutu notched just one point, an assist, in the first five games of the season. But the Finnish forward now has scored goals in each of the past two games and three of the last four. He also ripped a few into the net during practice Wednesday.

Why the outburst?

"It's tough to analyze, especially early in the season, but sometimes when it's not going your way, you're thinking too much," Ruutu said. "You've got to go out there and play. At least for myself, I find it really makes a difference.

"When I'm thinking too much, I'm always a half a second late hitting somebody, or getting the shot off my blade. I need to play a more simple game."

Ruutu, 28, has had slow starts to seasons and Canes coach Paul Maurice explained why Wednesday.

"There's a definite theme to the way he starts," Maurice said. "I think it is very difficult to do what he does. He winds himself up to hit and to skate and to grind. He almost has to get into a rhythm and we felt two or three games ago it started to come a little bit.

"What always starts with him is banging first, getting in on the forecheck. You see hitting and speed first and the hands follow. I think he's on track now."

Against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, Ruutu came off the bench for his first shift and roared into the Sens' zone on the forecheck. He slammed into defenseman Chris Phillips. Seconds later, he did the same to Sens forward Nick Foligno.

Late in the third period, with the Senators leading 2-0 and the Canes seemingly down and out, Ruutu crashed the net, collected a loose puck and lifted a backhander past goalie Craig Anderson. It sparked a comeback that ended with the Canes losing 3-2 in a shootout but salvaging a point.

Ruutu began the season at center but was shifted to right wing. He played on Eric Staal's wing against the Sens, but Maurice has him back on Jussi Jokinen's line opposite Skinner.

It was the "Finns & 'Skins' line" that was so productive for Carolina last season. Maurice has it back together as he had Staal centering Jiri Tlusty and Chad LaRose in Wednesday's practice.

"The original chemistry of Ruutu, Jokinen and Skinner is something we hope to have going again," Maurice said.

Skinner, who also has goals in each of the past two games, said he likes having Ruutu - and his rambunctious energy - on his line.

"It brings a little bit of the physical element, that big body who likes to get on the forecheck," Skinner said. "That benefits our line. When we're playing well, we have the puck in their end and we're cycling it around.

"'Juice' and 'Ruuty' think the game so well and it's easy to play off them. They're two guys who can finish as well."

Jokinen, the man in the middle, said his job is pretty simple with Ruutu now on a tear and Skinner doing his thing.

"He can make plays, he can score goals, he can do a little bit of everything," Jokinen said of Ruutu. "He has two goals in a row and is feeling good. Jeff is playing really good. Just get them the puck and let them shoot."

NOTE: The Canes on Wednesday reassigned rookie defenseman Justin Faulk to the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL. Faulk was recalled Monday but did not play Tuesday against Ottawa.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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