The Pittsburgh Penguins certainly have their share of premier talent, but lately the star has been a player who is mostly known as an enforcer.
Jarkko Ruutu, fresh off his most productive game as a pro, will try to help the Penguins get one step closer to clinching the Atlantic Division title on Sunday when they host the New York Rangers in the first game of a home-and-home series.
Ruutu is second on Pittsburgh (45-26-7) with 128 penalty minutes, but recently the team has been reminded he has some offensive skill. The winger has only six goals this season, but four have come in his last six games.
|Enforcer Jarkko Ruutu leads the Pittsburgh Penguins with 128 penalty minutes but has also scored four goals in his last six games. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Even with Sidney Crosby, Marian Hossa and Evgeni Malkin in the lineup together Thursday for the first time all season, Ruutu was the Penguins' best offensive player. He had a goal and two assists as Pittsburgh beat the New York Islanders 3-1.
The Penguins are four points ahead of New Jersey in the Atlantic Division and six up on the Rangers (40-26-11).
"Some nights, it's someone you don't expect," said Ruutu, who has six points in his last six games. "Tonight I was the guy. You play 400-some games, and get three points for the first time."
The Penguins got Crosby back from a high ankle sprain for the first time since March 9 on Thursday, and because of Hossa's knee sprain, he and Crosby hadn't played together since Pittsburgh acquired Hossa from Atlanta on Feb. 26.
"(The ankle) feels a lot better," said Crosby, who had missed 28 of 31 games with the injury. "My timing's still not there, but as far as the ankle goes it feels OK. It won't be an issue."
Hossa wasn't able to finish his debut game as Crosby's linemate. He left with an upper body injury in the second period and didn't return, though he's expected to play against the Rangers.
Crosby has a goal and five assists this season against New York, while Ruutu began his recent goal-scoring binge with one in a 5-2 loss to the Rangers on March 18.
Malkin has four goals in six games against New York, including a hat trick on Jan. 14 in the Rangers' last visit to Pittsburgh.
New York is in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, but fifth-place Ottawa is just a point ahead and New Jersey is only two points up.
The Rangers were able to get even closer to the Devils with a 3-2 victory over New Jersey on Thursday - their seventh win in as many tries over their Atlantic rivals.
"Against a team like this I think what wins out is to try and stay composed and poised and work hard within our structure," coach Tom Renney told the team's official Web site. "It seems as games go on against these guys, we believe in that even more so."
New York has been getting solid play from Henrik Lundqvist, who is 8-2-2 with a 1.82 goals-against average in his last 12 starts. He's 7-3-2 with a 1.88 GAA in his last 12 against the Penguins.
Jaromir Jagr has a goal and three assists in six games against his former team, but Sean Avery has been the offensive star for New York against Pittsburgh, recording three goals and two assists in three games.
The Rangers have won four of six meetings this season with Pittsburgh, which visits New York on Monday night to close out the home-and-home series.