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Penguins' Sutter praises outgoing Hurricanes GM

by Mike G. Morreale

NEW YORK -- Pittsburgh Penguins center Brandon Sutter will never forget the opportunity given him by Jim Rutherford and the Carolina Hurricanes seven years ago.

One of the top two-way players on the Penguins, Sutter has three goals, five points and a plus-8 rating as the third-line center in nine Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Penguins this spring.

Pittsburgh holds a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Second Round best-of-7 series against the New York Rangers. Game 4 is Wednesday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

Sutter was acquired from the Hurricanes in June 2012 along with Carolina's 2012 first-round pick and defensive prospect Brian Dumoulin in a trade for center Jordan Staal.

Rutherford was the general manager of the Hurricanes when Sutter was selected in the first round (No. 11) of the 2007 NHL Draft. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound versatile forward was looked upon at the time as a player capable of logging big minutes, chipping in offensively and excelling on the penalty kill.

Sutter was recently asked about Rutherford and the impact he had in Carolina. Rutherford stepped down as GM after 20 seasons on April 28 and was replaced by Hall of Fame player Ron Francis.

"[Rutherford] drafted me and those were a great five years, four years of playing," Sutter said. "They have a good organization and a good thing going there. They have some good young players too, and now with Jimmy stepping down, he leaves a good mark.

"He's been there a long time and has done a good job, but maybe Carolina is ready for a little change there and Ron Francis will step in and do a good job."

Rutherford will remain with the Hurricanes as its president in an advisory role.

If Francis takes the same approach he did as a player, the Hurricanes will be in very good shape. In 23 seasons, including seven-plus with the Penguins, Francis had 549 goals and 1,249 assists, and ranked fourth all-time on the NHL scoring list behind Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Gordie Howe with 1,798 points.

"I think he's ready for it and excited about it," Sutter said of Francis. "But Jimmy definitely got me going and I definitely enjoyed my time there, so hopefully they can find a way to turn things around (after not qualifying for the playoffs the past five seasons).

"I'm sure Ron will do a good job; he's a smart man and knows how to play the game, so it should be good."

Sutter, the son of former NHL player Brent Sutter, finished his four seasons in Carolina with 53 goals and 107 points in 286 regular-season games but never had an opportunity to play for the Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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