Jarkko Ruutu can’t wait to get started.
The newest Ottawa Senators forward wore a perpetual grin Thursday as he arrived for his first workout at Scotiabank Place since signing as a free agent with the team in early July. For the onetime Vancouver Canuck, the scenario couldn’t be much better.
“I’m excited. It’s very fun to be back here, back in Canada,” said Ruutu, who spent the past two seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, helping them reach the Stanley Cup final back in June. “This is really where the game matters the most.
“(Moving to a new team) is part of the business. I had a good time (in Pittsburgh) and we went pretty far. But you can’t look back, you’ve got to look ahead. I’m going to try to be better this year on my new team (in Ottawa).”
Senators general manager Bryan Murray has high hopes for Ruutu, an agitating forward who figures to bring some needed edge to the Ottawa lineup.
“I really like the way he plays,” Murray said of Ruutu. “I like his attitude on the ice. He’s a hard guy to play against. He’s a pest in many ways. He’s upsetting (to rivals). But I say all of that and he’s a good player.
“He knows what to do with the puck. He doesn’t bring the goals that maybe some other players might bring, but he brings an attitude and a work ethic. I think he addresses an issue we had on this hockey team. And that’s character, hard work, finish your checks and make it difficult on the goaltender because you drive the net regularly.”
Ruutu already likes what he sees in Ottawa.
“It’s a great organization. They’ve been pretty great to me so far,” said the 6-foot-1, 200-pound native of Helsinki. “The building is almost new. I have not seen much of the city yet but I know it’s Canada. It’s going to be good… I can’t wait for the first game.”
Ruutu is already warming up to his new home and new teammates.
“The only guy I knew before (coming here) was Alex Auld
, from Vancouver,” said Ruutu. “But (the Senators players) were all very good to me. I feel very welcome."
And wouldn’t you know it, the Senators’ first two regular-season games are against Ruutu’s former Penguins teammates. They face off Oct. 4 and 5 in Stockholm as part of the NHL Premiere season-opening series.
Murray expects Ruutu to stir it up right from the opening whistle.
“You like competitive people and I regard him as a competitive person,” he said.
For his part, Ruutu admitted he can’t be anything but himself. But he intends to contribute any way that he can.
“I’m going to play with my strengths, not try to do much other stuff,” he said. “Obviously, you want to score whenever you get a chance and you want to get better every night.
“(Being an agitator) is what I get paid for, you could say. But you have to be able to do something else, too. You have to prove yourself every night. Whether you have a 10-year contract or not, it doesn’t matter. You have to put yourself in situations where you can make a difference in a game.”