Carolina Hurricanes

Canes have Ruutu back but goalie Khudobin on IR

calexander@newsobserver.comOctober 14, 2013 

— Gain one, lose one.

So it went for the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday. Forward Tuomo Ruutu was activated off injured reserve and in the lineup for the first time this season, only to have goalie Anton Khudobin leave the game against the Phoenix Coyotes with a lower-body injury.

The Canes on Monday placed Khudobin on injured reserve. Goalie Justin Peters was recalled on an emergency basis from the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League and will back up Cam Ward on Tuesday as Carolina hosts the Chicago Blackhawks at PNC Arena.

General manager Jim Rutherford did not specify the nature of Khudobin’s injury but called it a “best-case scenario” in that Khudobin might be able to return after a week. The goalie took an awkward fall in the second period as he came out of his net attempting to play the puck and needed assistance to leave the ice.

“It’s an unfortunate thing to see him go off like that,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said Monday. “Hopefully he’s back sooner rather than later.”

Ruutu missed the first five games with a leg injury suffered during a preseason game against the Montreal Canadiens. He started on the fourth line Sunday, had 10 minutes, 28 seconds of ice time and was used on a power-play unit with Eric Staal, Alexander Semin, Jiri Tlusty and Andrej Sekera.

“I got him as much ice time as I thought would be good for the first game, to get his feet wet again,” Muller said.

At Monday’s practice, Ruutu was on the top line with Eric Staal and Semin as Muller, disappointed by the 5-3 loss to the Coyotes, shuffled his lines. Tlusty was moved from Eric Staal’s line to Jordan Staal’s line, and Patrick Dwyer from Jordan Staal’s line to Riley Nash’s line opposite Jeff Skinner.

“He brings energy and plays a straight-line game,” Muller said of Ruutu. “If we opt to put him up there with Alex and Eric … I think it will make that line go with a little more direct, north game.”

Ruutu, 30, just wants to be on the ice. He missed last season’s opener as he recovered from hip surgery. To sit out another opener, this one against the Detroit Red Wings, was gut-wrenching for the Finn.

“When guys are stepping on the ice and you have to step to the side, that’s the tough part,” Ruutu said. “For me, I worked so hard this summer getting ready for training camp and a fresh start, and it was disappointing when I couldn’t start right away. I had to go back and work my way back into shape.

“It’s tough mentally. But it’s amazing. You forget everything when you come to the rink and play – all the setbacks and stuff like that.”

Since breaking into the NHL with the Blackhawks, who made him the ninth overall pick of the 2001 draft, Ruutu has had several physical setbacks. He had back and ankle injuries with the Blackhawks, and has had shoulder problems and then surgery on both hips with the Canes.

But Ruutu said his mind was at ease Sunday. No worries.

“I just wanted to get back out there and try to enjoy it and not think about much,” he said. “A lot of things go through your mind (when injured). You have too much time to think about stuff, so it was good to be back out there.”

While Ruutu has been with the Canes since Feb. 26, 2008, when he traded by Chicago to Carolina for forward Andrew Ladd, games against the Blackhawks still feel special. He played his first NHL game for the Blackhawks at 20, scored his first NHL goal for the ’Hawks.

“It’s not the same as the first game against them (with the Canes) but there’s always something extra,” he said. “I had a great time in Chicago and there are still guys there I played with.”

The Blackhawks (3-1-1) will come into PNC Arena as the defending Stanley Cup champions. That adds a little extra to the game, as well.

As for Ruutu, he said he would again keep it simple on the ice.

“Just try to play my game,” he said. “And my game is to bring that emotion and that grit.”

Alexander: 704-358-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

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