The man who ended the Ottawa Senators’ last season intends to do his level best to make sure the team’s next one lasts a lot longer.
And Jarkko Ruutu, the gritty forward whose game-winning goal finished off the Pittsburgh Penguins’ sweep of the Senators in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs back in April, doesn’t expect he’ll have any trouble switching his loyalties.
“That was last year and now it’s time to turn the page,” said Ruutu, who signed a three-year contract with the Senators on Wednesday. “I play for the Senators now and I’ll be going full (steam) for them. That’s the way it works in this business.
“Sometimes, you have to make choices and sometimes they’re tough. I chose to go to another team.”
Ruutu won’t have to wait long for that attitude to be put to the test. The Senators and Penguins open the 2008-09 season against each other with a pair of games Oct. 4 and 5 in Stockholm.
“It’ll be real exciting,” Ruutu told reporters on a conference call Thursday. “It’s going to be exciting for everybody to be outside of North America for the first two games. (Facing his former team) is one of the things that makes it interesting. I like it.
“It’s nice to get the first game out of the way and then you move on from that.”
The Finnish forward believes he’s joining a team that once again will be among the top contenders in the Eastern Conference.
“I think it’s a very competitive team,” he said, listing that as one of the reasons he chose to sign in Ottawa. “They went to the (Stanley Cup) finals two years ago and there’s a chance to win. Otherwise, I like Canada, I like the way hockey is handled there, how big it is. The (three-year) contract was also one of the reasons.
“I had two choices but I felt Ottawa fit my needs best.”
Ruutu said he was further reassured by a conversation with his brother, Mikko, who is the Senators’ scout in Finland.
“I had to (make) a real quick decision and he made me feel comfortable about the decision with the information he gave me about the organization,” he said.
Comfortable isn’t a word often used to describe the way Ruutu approaches his foes on the ice. He’s known as one of the league’s top agitators for a reason.
“I’ve got to be good defensively, play physical and get the opponents’ top guys off their game,” said Ruutu. “There’s no secret to how I play.
“At times, I’ll take unnecessary penalties that I should probably avoid, but it’s part of my game and when it’s a real crucial time in the playoffs, I know where to draw the line … It’s part of my role. I have to be aggressive and I have to be annoying for opponents.”
That includes former teammates like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, with whom he’ll renew acquaintances soon enough.
“There’s going to be no free skating (for them),” said Ruutu. “You want to be tough on them. I played with them for two years and you see, night after night, the things they like and the way they play. But those guys are good players and they know me pretty well, too, so I’ve got to be smart about it.”