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Brotherly love takes back seat

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Blood, it's often been said, is thicker than water.

But brotherly love will take a bit of a back seat for Jarkko Ruutu tonight when the Ottawa Senators face off against the Carolina Hurricanes at RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C. (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200).

The Hurricanes' roster includes Tuomo Ruutu, Jarkko's younger (by eight years) brother. Tonight's contest provides another matchup between the Finnish siblings, who share a similar, rugged style of play on the ice.

"It's always exciting. It's a little different," Ruutu said on an off-day for the Senators after their 4-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night at Scotiabank Place. "I'm getting more used to it than the first few years (we faced each other). You always look at what he's doing and hope he's doing well but at the same time, you want to win."

Ruutu said it's always been "real competitive" between the two, though he admits some of his usual agitating tactics might not work nearly as well against such a familiar foe.

"I don't think (Tuomo) will fall for my tricks," said Ruutu. "He knows me way too well. We don't really play against each other that much. It's a different matchup. We'll see how it goes tonight."

They've represented Finland together at world championships and the Olympics. Ruutu admitted "the best choice for both (of us is to play) is the same team, but it hasn't worked out that way so far." Therefore, they'll be friendly rivals one more time tonight.

"(Being brothers) doesn't matter in a game," he said. "He'll try to hit me as hard as he can and I'll try to do the same and that's the way it goes. You try to win the game and get the two points. That's pretty much what's on the line."

He'll try to hit me as hard as he can and I'll try to do the same and that's the way it goes. You try to win the game and get the two points. That's pretty much what's on the line - Jarkko Ruutu
The Senators are indeed aiming to add two more points to the nine they've earned (out of a possible 10) in their last five games. They'll do it with Martin Gerber back between the pipes after Alex Auld backstopped the 4-0-1 run that pushed Ottawa's record to 6-5-2, good for ninth overall in the Eastern Conference.

It'll be Gerber's first start since he was sidelined by a pulled leg muscle suffered in practice two weeks ago. Auld has started seven straight games since then.

"Alex was playing very well, so he deserved to stay in the net," said Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg. "With three (games) in four (nights) and travel, it's good to get (Gerber) back in and have a fresh goalie in the net.

"I think he's ready, he's excited about the chance and he's just got to go and play well. It's a situation where we think it's time to get him in and it's the right night."

Gerber will return to the net behind a team that's tightened its game defensively in a major way in recent games. The Senators have allowed only seven goals in regulation during their current 4-0-1 run.

"He'll notice the difference for sure," said Hartsburg. "When (Gerber) was in the lineup before we went on the road, we weren't as solid and as good defensively. We've just got to continue to play like that and it'll be easier on the goalie."

"We definitely did a lot of good things in our end," Auld said after Thursday night's win over the Flyers. "The guys blocked a ton of shots and definitely made my job easier. We just keep building on our game and every game, we continue to do more good things."

Around the boards

The Senators are back on the road again Tuesday night in Montreal (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200) before returning home to face the New York Islanders on Thursday (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet East, Team 1200). Fewer than 1,750 tickets remain for the game.

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