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Muller Will Get First Look at Brett Sutter

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
Brett Sutter will be headed back to Raleigh for his third National Hockey League stint this season, but it will be his first under head coach Kirk Muller.

Michael Smith
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Sutter’s last recall ended on Nov. 29, Muller’s first full day with the Carolina Hurricanes. During his four games with the Canes in November, Sutter had two assists and was even in plus/minus. Since returning to Charlotte, Sutter has experienced his most productive stretch of hockey this season with 8 points (3g, 5a) in 14 games.

“[Sutter] is a guy that’s played reliable up here. He’s hard-nosed,” Muller said. “It goes back to the message that we’re trying to preach right now: We have to have that tenacious mentality a little bit more. We have to be a little harder on the puck and harder with the puck.

“I’ve heard he’s done some good things that way when he’s up here, and we’ve got two opponents that play a hard game. I think it will be a good challenge and a good opportunity for him to come in and be the type of player that we’re speaking of and need right now.”

With how the lines fleshed out today in practice, Sutter will most likely be slotted in the fourth line center position between Anthony Stewart (who celebrates his 27th birthday today) and Andreas Nodl. It’s a spot he can naturally slide into.

With that move comes more line juggling. Muller moved Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu up to flank Eric Staal. For a complete list of the lines seen in today’s practice, click here.

“They are three veteran guys. It puts a little bit of an onus on them to lead the charge, and they should produce as the top line,” Muller said. “I didn’t want to touch [Sutter’s] line, and then we are just trying some different options on the third and fourth line that made sense.

“[Jokinen] has had some chemistry with [Staal], and [Ruutu] is playing hard. I think it’s important that you can establish that type of line.”

Some banged up bodies from Tuesday night’s game prevented Muller from making the line switch in yesterday’s practice. He was also waiting to here the prognosis on Jeff Skinner and Patrick Dwyer. They both skated in yellow, non-contact jerseys again today and are probably still a few days off from being cleared for contact.

When either of them returns to the lineup, we’ll most likely see some more line movement. But the sought after end result is the same: a strong and consistent compete level. When asked if Muller had been pleased with the team’s compete level as of late, he said, “Yes and no.”

“We have to understand that it’s competitive. If you let your guard down, you’re going to pay the price,” he said. “One of the big things that we’ve stressed the last couple of days is that competitive level doesn’t mean just finishing checks and playing hard. It’s mental, too.

“A lot of the … opportunities that go against us are because we put the puck in wrong areas,” Muller said. “I think puck awareness is so important in the game, and I think if we get stronger in that, it will give us a better control of the game.”

The Hurricanes take on the Buffalo Sabres tomorrow night before flying to Nashville for a match-up with the Predators on Saturday night. It’s the Hurricanes’ eight of sixteen back-to-back situations this season. In those games, they have a record of 6-6-2; 3-3-1 in the first game and 3-3-1 in the second.

Sutter will be up with the big club for both games. With Sunday a scheduled off-day, news on Skinner or Dwyer’s return most likely will wait until Monday in advance of the Hurricanes’ game with the Philadelphia Flyers at home on Tuesday.

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