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Hurricanes work extra shifts without Ruutu, Cole

Monday, 05.18.2009 / 11:51 PM / Conference Finals: Pittsburgh vs. Carolina

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

As if battling back from a two-goal deficit against Pittsburgh wasn't hard enough. Carolina had to make that climb Monday night without center Tuomo Ruutu, who started Game 1 centering a line with Jussi Jokinen and Sergei Samsonov.

Ruutu left the game midway through the first period with a reported lower-body injury. He took three shifts totaling 2:40 of ice time before leaving the game, and Ruutu is questionable for Game 2 on Thursday.

The 26-year-old Ruutu was positioned in front of Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury before getting tangled up with defenseman Mark Eaton. Ruutu was then seen skating to his bench before heading to the locker room for the remainder of the contest.

The injury forced Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice to use three lines for much of game with wingers Ryan Bayda and Patrick Eaves receiving spot duty. Top-line center Eric Staal notched 22:42 of ice time while being double-shifted.

"We needed guys to step up and play a few more minutes and we did a good job of getting our bench going when Tuomo went down," Staal said. "We get two days of rest here and, hopefully, (Ruutu) can regroup and be ready to go for Game 2."

Hurricanes defenseman Dennis Seidenberg felt his team played well considering the circumstances. The 'Canes almost tied it on an Eric Staal shot at the goal mouth with 28 seconds left. Instead, Carolina fell by a 3-2 final, its third straight opening loss in a series.

"When you lose a guy like Rootie, it's a big loss," said Seidenberg.  "But I think we're deep enough and good enough to be able to overcome that challenge and we did."

Erik Cole was also nicked up with 12:08 left in the third and the Pens holding a 2-1 lead. The trade-deadline pickup was involved in a knee-on-knee collision with Pens winger Matt Cooke. Cole, who remained down for a few seconds before finally being helped off the ice and to the bench, would return late in the game but was clearly upset with Cooke at the time of the hit.

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma admired Carolina's staying power.

"We were completely unaware (of their injuries) and they showed us what kind of team they are," Pens coach Dan Bylsma said. "That's something we have to focus on. Be a little more better on the walls and more sure on getting pucks out and getting pucks in."

Maurice said Tuesday figures to be an important off day in one respect.

Carolina Hurricanes Playoff Gear"I'll know more on the status of Ruutu and Cole," Maurice said. "I don't know much right now, we'll see how they wake up and how they feel. Right now, Cole's injury is lower-body."
Ruutu, a five-year NHL veteran, set career highs this season with 26 goals, 28 assists and 54 points in 79 games. He also led the team with 228 hits in the regular season. In 14 playoff games over the first two rounds, he recorded a goal and three assists.

"It was tough, you never want to see a guy get hurt and (Ruutu) is an impact player for us," Carolina forward Chad LaRose said. "I think he's OK; I think he just went off to be cautious. We just had to have other guys step in and I feel we did that. Now, it's just a matter of getting ready for Thursday."
Quote of the Day

I'm just excited about the opportunity. I've been on the ice earlier than usual and in the weight room, pushing around a little more weights than usual. Every day I go into a workout with a smile on my face and ready to go. When you do have a little more responsibility, you want to take your lunch pail and get ready to work.

— Brian Elliott to Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch on being the Blues' No. 1 goalie