One has played in the NHL for 20 years, and the other has been alive for 20 years. In the cases of both Rod Brind’Amour and Brandon Sutter
, it seems that it’s always a good time to learn a new position.
Both players, thought to be strictly centers less than a week ago, practiced on the wings on Tuesday. Brind’Amour has played parts of the Canes’ last three games on the left side, while Sutter is expected to make his first NHL appearance on the right tomorrow vs. St. Louis.
Part of the reasoning behind that is an abundance of players who can play center currently on the roster, and another is the absence of wingers Erik Cole and Tuomo Ruutu to injury and suspension, respectively. However, at least in the early going, Coach Paul Maurice thinks that the new positions may stick.
“I’m going to put the curse on it now, but I really like the way Rod Brind’Amour has played on that wing,” said Maurice, citing the way his team captain complements linemates Matt Cullen and Scott Walker. “Every year people have to kind of reinvent themselves at times, and Roddy looks good on the left wing, I think he’s comfortable and I’m really happy with the way he’s playing.”
Brind’Amour has two points in three games since making the switch during the game against the New York Islanders last week. The 39-year-old’s ice time has not decreased since then (he actually played a season-high 22:45 in the most recent game at Minnesota), but the work of a winger is typically a little less tiring, a factor Maurice takes weight in.
“He made a play on the penalty kill late in [the Minnesota game] where he made a great play back behind our net and got the puck out,” recalled Maurice. “I don’t know if he makes that play at center ice, because you cover a lot more ice, fatigue sets in and your minutes go up. He looks like he’s got a lot of jump playing on the wing.”
Although Sutter has played 1,363 fewer games than Brind’Amour, the experience is just as new. Sutter said that he played on the wing for a few months back in junior hockey, but has been a center for the rest of his young career.
” Sometimes a little bit of a change is a good thing,” he said after a practice in which skated with Jussi Jokinen and Sergei Samsonov. “I’m excited to try it out and see how it goes.”
Like Brind’Amour, Sutter said that he doesn’t foresee any problems making the adjustment, however long it may last.
“System-wise, I think the center and the right winger have a pretty common knowledge of the game and pretty similar style up and down the ice,” he said. “Most of the time you want to have your centerman down low, but the way we run it the first guy back is always down low so it doesn’t really change much.”
Maurice wasn’t totally committal about Sutter playing in the wing for the entirety of Wednesday’s home game against St. Louis. The versatility of Jokinen, who Maurice prefers at center but can play any forward position, will allow the coach to make in-game changes as he sees fit.
“I know that (Jokinen) can play the wing, and I know that Sutter can play the wing, so we’ll probably flip-flop them a little bit and see what we’ve got,” Maurice said.
A few more notes:
- Yet another center playing out of position at Tuesday’s practice was Eric Staal, who manned the point on the power play. Although the man-advantage unit has scored in three consecutive games and posted a 33.3 percent conversion rate during that span, Maurice believes the shift could help make that success a more regular occurrence while helping to jump-start Staal’s offense.
”I think it’s a little bit easier to cover a guy off who is playing up front on the power play,” said Maurice. “(Staal) will be harder to cover (on the point) and we’ll give him more room to maneuver as well.”
- Tim Gleason did not practice Tuesday, leading Maurice to say that the defenseman’s rib injury would cause him to miss at least one more week.
- Stephane Yelle cleared waivers at noon today. As of now he should be in the lineup tomorrow, although a reassignment is now possible.