Last year we thought Tuomo Ruutu was the perfect acquisition for the New Jersey Devils because he fit their style and was a physical player, something they needed an upgrade in. His point production hasn’t been spectacular — 16 points (8g-8a) in 59 games with New Jersey — but he has been durable, which is another aspect they have been in serious need of lately. He was a healthy scratch once this season (October 21 vs NYR) and brings the same hustle and intensity every shift, no matter what line he’s a part of that particular night.
Plot twist: the first half of the Devils season hasn’t exactly gone according to plan, as it has been extremely rare that they used the same lineup in back-to-back games since the opening week of the season it seems. Players have gotten hurt, come back, gotten sick, been bought out; they’ve already seen ten players see action that weren’t on the opening night roster. This is remarkably high for a team that has just reached the midway point of the season; Buffalo, Columbus, Edmonton and Pittsburgh each have had only three players appear in every game while New Jersey is the lowest in the NHL with only two ironman players.
After a 5-2 rout of the Philadelphia Flyers The Hockey Writers caught up with Tuomo Ruutu to find out what’s been going on since the coaching change and if Jaromir ‘the Joker’ Jagr is a better joke teller than he is hockey player among other things.
The Hockey Writers: Tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers you guy scored five goals; that hasn’t happened around here lately right?
Tuomo Ruutu: Yeah (grins) that’s true; we finally scored some goals and obviously we’ve had some difficulty scoring goals. It was a good team effort today; I think (all) four lines were going tonight, our PK was pretty good and also our PP got a big goal.
— Toivo Soini (@toivosoini) October 31, 2014
THW: How do you think things are going here since the coaching change on December 26?
TR: You know, we’ve had a couple of losses (so obviously) it could have been better; but at the same time the past is past and we just try to move forward. The room doesn’t change that much; we’ve got guys here that are still trying to do their best on the ice. Whatever else happens happens. There’s nothing you (about the past now), and I don’t think anybody in here can be satisfied with how we played in the first half (of the season). We have to be better.
THW: You’ve only missed one game this season & we’ve enjoyed watching your game this season because you’ve contributed in ways that don’t show up on the score sheet necessarily…
TR: We have a lot of guys here (battling for lineup spots) and competition is always good. I think there are a lot of things I can do better obviously, I’m not too satisfied; I know I can produce more and stuff like that. I don’t think as an individual or team I am satisfied with the way things have gone so far this season.
THW: As a team only two players (Marek Zidlicky, Andy Greene) have played every game this season; the Devils have had so many players sick and injured that they’ve had a different lineup just about every night since the third game of the season. That has to have some effect on your record right?
TR: It doesn’t help, that’s for sure, but look at other teams as well. They have injuries; they have mumps, all kinds of stuff like that. Its just adversity, you just have to battle through that stuff. Hopefully all those injuries and all those mumps are behind us (laughs) hopefully we are healthy for the rest of the season and get into a competition for the playoff spots. We need to get a streak going; it’s not enough to just win one and then lose one (we can’t afford it). We need to win a couple in a row and go from there.
Tuomo Ruutu shows Victor Fasth that he’s got a pretty good shot:
THW: This Jagr guy next to you is pretty good right?
TR: (laughs) Yeah, I wouldn’t say pretty good, I would say really, really, really good.
THW: Okay well we know Jaromir Jagr is quite the jokester, but is he a better player than he is a funny guy?
TR: He is funny (laughs loudly) but he’d have to be really funny because he’s really great at hockey.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.