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Cullen settling in with Senators

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators forward Matt Cullen made good use of the two-week Olympic break, settling in with his new teammates and getting his home life in order after the Feb. 12 trade that brought him to Ottawa (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images).

The Olympic break was anything but a restful time for Matt Cullen.

But still, the National Hockey League's two-week shutdown couldn't have been better timed for the 33-year-old veteran. Cullen's life has been a bit of a whirlwind since the Ottawa Senators acquired him in a Feb. 12 trade with the Carolina Hurricanes.

There was a house in Raleigh, N.C., to sell. Then he moved his pregnant wife, Bridget, and their two sons back home to Virginia, Minn., where they'll stay for the time being.

All in all, the timing of the deal turned out just right for Cullen, who is also getting a few extra practices this week to help settle in with his new teammates.

"I thought it would be better to be traded at the (March 3) deadline but in going through it, I’ve changed that (opinion)," Cullen said after Senators practice earlier today at the Bell Sensplex. "I’m really happy that it happened before (the break). There’s so many more things that go along with being traded than just moving teams.

"So it's been nice. I didn’t realize what a big difference it would make getting here, getting settled and practising with the guys. I’ve been playing in Carolina for a while now and you kind of get comfortable with what you’re doing and you get settled in and it’s second nature. So to change (systems) a little bit takes some getting used to, but it’s been real good."

It doesn't exactly hurt, either, to get set up with Mike Fisher and Alex Kovalev as linemates — at least for the time being. While Cullen is a natural centre, he's versatile enough to play the wing, which allowed Senators head coach Cory Clouston to create the current combination during Ottawa's 4-3 victory over the New York Islanders on Feb. 14, their final game before the break.

"I’m really happy that it happened before (the break). There’s so many more things that go along with being traded than just moving teams. So it's been nice. I didn’t realize what a big difference it would make getting here, getting settled and practising with the guys. I’d been playing in Carolina for a while now and you kind of get comfortable with what you’re doing and you get settled in and it’s second nature. So to change (systems) a little bit takes some getting used to, but it’s been real good." - Matt Cullen
"Right now, we’ve got six or seven natural centre men, so somebody’s going to have to play the wing," said Clouston. "It’s going to be about getting guys in roles that we feel can help the team out. If that means (Cullen) is going to left (wing), that’s fine. But if we need him to use him on certain faceoffs, he can take some draws as well.

"He looks like a versatile player. That’s his history, that he can play different positions, and we’re going to need him to do that."

Cullen said it "wasn't a total shock" when he was traded or that it was to Ottawa. He heard plenty of talk about both once the Hurricanes slipped out of playoff contention before Christmas, a big surprise given the team's run to the Eastern Conference final a year ago. But he's "thrilled" to be joining a playoff contender.

"I was thrilled," said Cullen, who helped the Hurricanes win a Stanley Cup in 2005-06. "It's not like you're going to a team that's struggling. You're going to a team that's having a lot of success ... I feel pretty fortunate to come to such a good team and it's a good opportunity to hopefully make a long (playoff) run."

Fisher, for one, thinks Cullen's Stanley Cup-winning experience with Carolina can pay big dividends for the Ottawa.

"Experience is key and he's won (a Cup)," said Fisher. "A lot of our guys haven't won and he had success in the playoffs during their run. I think he'll be good for us, especially in the playoffs, and that's going to be huge for us."

Golden dreams over for Ruutu, Finland

There will be no gold medal for Senators forward Jarkko Ruutu and Finland at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. A six-goal first-period blitz this afternoon allowed the United States to whip the Finns 6-1 in a semi-final matchup at Canada Hockey Place.

Finland now plays for the bronze medal on Saturday (10 p.m., CTV) against Slovakia, which was edged by Canada 3-2 in the other semifinal. The Canada-U.S. gold-medal game goes Sunday afternoon (3 p.m., CTV), the final medal event of the Vancouver Games.

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