Today’s experience on the wing was a different one for Brandon Sutter
, who first saw he’d be playing on the right side of Rod Brind’Amour and Ryan Bayda when arriving at the rink for today’s practice.
“It’s pretty new,” he said “I played it a little bit two years ago in junior for maybe a month or two, but it’s definitely a little different than what I used to. It’s probably nothing I can’t figure out, so I’ll be fine with it.”
Paul Maurice’s line combinations at today’s session resulted from an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” policy that saw him keep the team’s first three offensive units together from Saturday’s 7-2 win over Phoenix – easily the team’s biggest of the season in terms of victory margin.
“What we did today was finish with the three lines intact what we finished with in Phoenix, and clearly we were happy with the performance both offensively and defensively,” said Maurice. “We’ll make adjustments as we go over the course of the game. I don’t want to get too set on those.”
Sutter shifting to the wing came as a result of Rod Brind’Amour returning to practice after a week off to nurse a groin injury. The newly-acquired Jussi Jokinen slotted into Brind’Amour’s spot centering the third line for that game.
Although Sutter hasn’t spent much time on the wing at any point throughout his career, Maurice didn’t seem concerned with making that move today.
“To be able to move people around comfortably and not have to take them out of their element is really important,” said Maurice. “(Players like) Chad LaRose and Patty Eaves both, it’s a flip of the coin on what side they want to play on any given night, and there are a number of players like that. I think you see that more in the NHL now than ever. A lot of players come into our league as natural centers and then they move out to the wings if the situation dictates. We have a number of players who can play all three.”
As for Brind’Amour, Sutter’s new linemate, by all accounts he looked and felt fine and is expected to play in Thursday night’s game in Florida.
“He got through practice today quite well, and I thought he was moving early on as well as he has in the last two months,” said Maurice. “When you’re dealing with muscles though, I think it’s the next day. You go out and push yourself here today, and it’s really how you wake up the next morning and how you feel, but based on what we saw today he looks like he’s ready to go.”
“It felt fine,” said Brind’Amour, who thinks the week off the ice will eventually leave him more rested for the playoff drive. “I was a little winded when we did a little skate at the end, but I looked around and everybody else was sucking wind too, so I’m not really sure if that was from the layoff or if it was just a tough little skate.”
Expect the current lines to hold until Thursday’s game, when Paul Maurice could make some changes based on what he sees. Scott Walker likely won’t be ready for that game, as he still isn’t feeling well enough to practice.