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Annoying? Pesky? Aggressive? That's Ruutu

by Dan Rosen

Jarkko Ruutu intends on being the same player in Ottawa that he was in Pittsburgh, Vancouver, or even Finland for that matter.  Highlights
Jarkko Ruutu says he won't be any different in Ottawa than he was in Pittsburgh, Vancouver, or even Finland for that matter.

Annoying. Pesky. Tough. Aggressive. Agitating.

It's a pick-your-adjective game with Ruutu, and the Senators are hoping he'll be all of those things and more during the next three seasons.

"I have to do my role, the way I always played," said Ruutu, who is spending the summer in his native Finland, during a conference call Thursday afternoon, a day after signing a three-year contract with Ottawa. "Be good defensively, play physically and get the opponents' top guys off their game. There is no secret to how I play."

Senators GM Bryan Murray also made it well known that he was in the market for a winger just like Ruutu, who he envisions fitting in well with players like Chris Neil and/or Chris Kelly in a third-line, checking role.

"He's an agitator, there's no question," Murray said. "He brings that dimension, and I think that's a good thing for a hockey team. I think he'll be quite popular in our room."

Ruutu, who is one of the most unpopular players in the League to play against, was well-liked in the Penguins' dressing room for the past two years. He had 16 points in each of the past two seasons, and was a key role player in Pittsburgh's run to the Stanley Cup Final this past spring.

But Penguins GM Ray Shero was not willing to give Ruutu a third year on his contract, so Ruutu decided to test the market. Shero made Ruutu his second free-agent signing as the Penguins GM when he inked him to a two-year deal on July 4, 2006.

"Jarkko served us very well for two years," Shero said. "I think that was a good signing for us, but the third year, and I talked to Jarkko about this, was somewhat problematic. He's 33 years old and if the grass was greener elsewhere, if someone gave him a third year, that was big for him. He got that and I'm happy for him."

Ruutu said getting that third year for stability purposes was a big deal for him, but not the only factor in choosing Ottawa. His brother is a Finnish scout for the Senators, and Mikko Ruutu apparently convinced Jarkko that Ottawa is a good destination.

"In the end he had good things to say about it," Jarkko said. "I had to do a real quick decision in the end and he made me feel real comfortable with the decision from what he told me about the organization."

While Murray may have an idea of where Ruutu fits into the Sens lineup, Ruutu said he'll have to see what new coach Craig Hartsburg has in store.

"You can say anything you want right now, but I want to prove myself night after night," Ruutu said. "The better I play, the more I get ice. Sometimes there are games you play more and sometimes less, but I'd like to play 12 to 13 a night and hopefully I can do that and prove myself."

Ruutu averaged 10:12 per game during this past season, up from the 9:19 he averaged during the 2006-07 season. Ruutu played 10:37 a night in the playoffs. He said more ice time allows him to better utilize his agitating style because he gets to know what the officials will and will not tolerate. Ruutu totaled 138 penalty minutes last season after wracking up 125 the year before. His 142 with Vancouver in 2005-06 remains a career high.

"I think at times I'll take penalties that are unnecessary, but it's part of my game and when it's a real crucial time I know where to draw the line," Ruutu said. "If you play five minutes a game it's tough to do, but if you play 10-12 minutes a game you get a feeling of how to handle things. I have to be aggressive and annoying, but at the same time I have to avoid penalties."

Ruutu will debut for the Senators against his old team when Pittsburgh and Ottawa open the season in Stockholm as part of the NHL Premiere. Ruutu said he won't give any free passes to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

"I'm playing against them so there is no free skating," Ruutu said. "I played with them for two years, and you see night after night the things they like and don't like. Those guys are so good. It's not real easy. They know me pretty good, too, so I have to be smart about it."

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