Coach Paul Maurice said that Brandon Sutter
’s NHL future may not lie exclusively at center, a position he’s played for the bulk of his career up until this point.
Although the coach said that Sutter did a good job in his first NHL game of the season on Saturday, he would prefer to have Jussi Jokinen
centering the third line on a more long-term basis.
”He can play all three positions and were comfortable with that in the short term,” said Maurice of Jokinen. “But when we’ve moved him to the middle of the ice, the few times this year that it’s happened, he’s played very, very well.”
Depending on what happens with Stephane Yelle in the coming days, whether it’s a reassignment, a waiver claim by another team or nothing at all, there could be space for Sutter to center the fourth line as early as Wednesday. Or, he may play on the wing, an experiment carried out for one practice last season but never since.
”I think Brandon Sutter is a guy that can play more than one position,” said Maurice. “I think he’s going to need to if he ends up playing the fourth-line role now or three years from now. He’s going to need more ice time than just that. In order to do that, he’s got to play more than one position and get out of the middle.
“We may move him around,” Maurice continued. “I don’t think we’ll lose anything immediately in doing that, but we may gain something down the road with him having experienced another position.”
Sutter had a hectic weekend, first playing for Albany on Friday night before experiencing weather-related flight setbacks on his way to Minneapolis/St. Paul.
“I had some delays, and then I pulled in about half an hour before warm ups," he said. "It was a long day, but I just battled through it, came to the rink, went and played a game.”
It didn’t help that he was using another player’s sticks since his didn’t arrive in time, or that he received a high stick to the face on his very first shift, leaving him with a clear diagonal mark underneath his left eye.
“Welcome back,” said Sutter. “It woke me up a little bit, so it was probably good for me.”
Sounds a little bit like what happened to Tuomo Ruutu in his Hurricanes debut, although Sutter’s injury wasn’t quite as gruesome.