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Ruutu, Cole doubtful for Game 2

Wednesday, 05.20.2009 / 4:01 PM / Conference Finals: Pittsburgh vs. Carolina

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH - It's looking more and more like the Carolina Hurricanes will be forced to even up their series with the Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday without the services of both Tuomo Ruutu and Erik Cole.

Both players suffered lower-body injuries in Game 1 Monday and did not participate in the team's Wednesday afternoon skate. While coach Paul Maurice took more of a wait-and-see approach regarding the injuries, Carolina General Manager Jim Rutherford was more definitive.

"It's not likely (Ruutu and Cole) will play (on Thursday)," Rutherford told NHL.com. "Definitely not Ruutu; Cole's probably a little better than Ruutu, but whatever the case may be, we do have some time left before Game 2, so we'll have to see."

Maurice will likely have to double-shift his centers and arrange his lineups accordingly in an attempt to slow down the crafty Penguins without Ruutu and Cole. That shouldn't be too much of a problem, however, as the coach has been rearranging his lines throughout the course of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"If (Ruutu and Cole) do not play, there will probably be some movement in the lines, but we have some guys who can jump in and take more minutes," center Eric Staal said. "We've got guys that can interchange and move different positions."

One likely scenario will have Rod Brind'Amour centering for Jussi Jokinen and Sergei Samsonov -- a line that was effective when Ruutu left Game 1 in the first period after getting tangled with Pens defenseman Mark Eaton. The top unit could either have Scott Walker with Staal and Ray Whitney or Chad LaRose with Staal and Whitney -- Maurice was mixing and matching the entire practice.

"We've got a couple of other players there in Pat Eaves and Ryan Bayda," Rutherford said. "They can both move up, so we have some good depth, but if (Ruutu and Cole) are out, we're certainly going to miss them."

In addition to Eaves to Bayda, don't be surprised if 6-foot-1, 188-pound center Michael Ryan is asked to make his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut. Ryan skated hard Wednesday and was involved in many of the drills.

"If 'Roots' and 'Colsie' can't go, that gives other guys an opportunity to get more minutes and prove how hungry they are to keep those minutes," said Bayda, who has suited up for 12 postseason games this spring. "It's just a matter of bring a lot of energy, but the overall philosophy of game plan won't change."

Ryan played 18 regular-season games this season and notched two assists. In Albany, he had 25 goals and 42 points in 40 games. Again, lineups and replacements won't be made official until Ruutu and Cole are officially declared out.

"I saw 'Roots' and 'Colsie' and they're both battling," Staal said. "They were involved in two difficult plays so we'll see what happens (Thursday) and how they respond to treatment. They'll probably be game-time decisions."

"They are day-to-day and we'll make an assessment (Thursday) morning," Maurice said. "They may skate, they may not. Our trainer (Peter Friesen) will make that decision for them and then they'll be game-time decisions. So it could have been worse, but we'll move forward positively."

When asked his opinion of Matt Cooke's knee-on-knee collision with Cole midway through the third period, Staal expressed some disapproval.

"I think when a guy doesn't see it coming and you're in a vulnerable position, it's one of those plays where maybe you should just get out of the way instead of coming across, but things happen quick," he said. "I think when a player doesn't see you coming and you finish him, it's a difficult play. But (Cooke) plays in your face and get under your skin so we'll have to make sure we're physical on him too."

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.


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