Tag: Joni Pitkanen


Canes place Ruutu on IR, could get Skinner back for opener

The Carolina Hurricanes have faced some tough injury news this summer, and while Sunday presented some more, at least there’s a positive update to go with it.

The bad: Tuomo Ruutu has been placed on the injured reserve, according to the Raleigh News & Observer’s Chip Alexander.

The good: Jeff Skinner is expected to practice Monday and could play in the team’s season opener, also via Alexander.

Both Skinner and Ruutu have struggled with health problems in recent seasons, so it’s sadly not a surprise that their names are coming up in injury news.

Skinner, 21, is currently nursing a lower-body injury, which the team just wanted to be smart about. He’s considered day-to-day at the moment, so tomorrow’s practice could be important in that regard.

GM Jim Rutherford emphasizes that Ruutu’s issue isn’t with a hip that plagued him before.

Regardless, it’s clear that the 30-year-old’s rugged style continues to put him at peril. He was limited to 17 games in 2013, missed 10 in 2011-12 and has frequently been sidelined in his up-and-down career. In retrospect, his 82-game (and 57-point) 2010-11 season with Carolina seems like a sad tease.

The Hurricanes already received some bad news about Joni Pitkanen earlier this offseason and have had some scares with Cam Ward and Eric Staal to boot.

Maybe Skinner’s progress is a sign that their luck might start turning around, then?

Under Pressure: Carolina’s blue line


“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the Carolina Hurricanes, we pick…. their defense.

All of it.

The ‘Canes are one of the league’s most uniquely constructed teams. GM Jim Rutherford has built a quality top-six forward group — Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Alex Semin, Jeff Skinner, Tuomo Ruutu and Jiri Tlusty — and locked up goalie Cam Ward (though to be fair, Ward could easily be Carolina’s candidate for Under Pressure this season).

Then, there’s the blue line.

It’s arguably one of the weakest and thinnest in the league and is now without its best asset in Joni Pitkanen, gone for the season after suffering a serious heel fracture.

As a stopgap measure, the ‘Canes inked veteran Ron Hainsey to a one-year, $2 million deal last week. While it’s not a bad signing (and decent value, given Hainsey made $22.5 million on his old contract) it was reflective of a larger theme — Carolina relying on guys with question marks.

Like, for example, Mike Komisarek. He barely played in Toronto last year, got bought out, then signed with Carolina and was pegged as a potential solution to the team’s penalty kill (ranked 28th last year, at 77 percent) by head coach Kirk Muller.

“All he has to do is worry about playing hockey, helping the penalty kill. He can play physical against teams we’re going to have to play against, bring his experience and attitude,” Muller told NHL.com. “I think [Komisarek’s] going to fit in great. He’s going to bring so much fun energy to the room that I think that’s going to be awesome.”

Another issue is Carolina’s lack of offense from the back end. Last year’s leading d-man scorer, Joe Corvo, walked in free agency. (Corvo set a dubious distinction in 2013 by leading with just 17 points. Only Colorado’s Tyson Barrie, with 13 points, led his team’s blueliners with fewer.)

With Pitkanen gone, there’s hope 21-year-old Justin Faulk can emerge as a 35-40 point guy, but he’s never scored more than 22 in a season.

In analyzing the D, we’d be remiss without mentioning Carolina’s longest-serving defenseman, Tim Gleason, who has been a good foot solider but might’ve already played his best hockey. Gleason, who’s been with the team since ’06, has seen his minutes dropped steadily over the last few years. Last season marked the first time since 2009 he averaged less than 20 minutes per night.

All this said, the ‘Canes do have some bright spots.

One is Ryan Murphy. The 20-year-old, taken 12th overall at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, is one of the most highly-touted prospects from a coveted defensive class that included New Jersey’s Adam Larsson, Boston’s Dougie Hamilton, Minnesota’s Jonas Brodin and Dallas’ Jamie Oleksiak.

Murphy actually made the ‘Canes out of his first NHL training camp, but failed to appear in a game before Carolina re-assigned him to OHL Kitchener.

From there, Murphy suffered a serious concussion while playing for the Rangers, but recovered sufficiently enough to be named Kitchener’s captain, earn a spot on Team Canada for the 2013 World Junior tournament and play four games for the ‘Canes last season, averaging over 21 minutes per.

For the ‘Canes D to succeed this year, Murphy will need to play beyond his years. They’ll also need their offseason pickups — Hainsey, Komisarek and ex-Sabre Andrej Sekera — to improve upon their 3.31 goals per game allowed last season, second-worst in the NHL.

Asking a lot? Probably. But that’s likely what it’ll take for the ‘Canes to get back to the postseason for the first time in four years.

Chimera on hybrid icing: ‘I hate it’

Jason Chimera

The hybrid-icing experiment was undertaken to cut down on serious injuries like the potentially career-ending one Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen suffered in April. But despite being intended to keep the players safer, the experiment isn’t being met with overwhelming enthusiasm.

“I hate it,” said the Capitals’ Jason Chimera, per CSN Washington’s Chuck Gormley.

Gormley notes that Chimera isn’t alone in his opinion among teammates, many of whom think the rule will be voted down by the NHLPA following the preseason and, thus, not implemented for the regular season.

That would seem to support a report from TSN’s Darren Dreger:

The PA intends on gathering feedback from players starting next week, but no decision has been made by the players as to how the intel will be gathered.

While it’s too soon to predict how the players will act on the matter in the days ahead, there’s reason to believe they will opt to stay with status quo and reject hybrid icing.

While hybrid icing was created with good intentions, some have complained that it’s too confusing and would prefer a more black-and-white rule.

Related: Devs GM Lamoriello dislikes hybrid icing: ‘It’s another judgement call’

With Pitkanen sidelined, ‘Canes sign d-man Hainsey

Ron Hainsey

The Carolina Hurricanes have signed veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey to a one-year, $2 million contract, according to Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer.

The ‘Canes will hope Hainsey, 32, can help fill the void left by Joni Pitkanen, who’s expected to miss the entire 2013-14 season with a serious heel injury.

Hainsey played 47 games for the Winnipeg Jets last season, registering no goals and 13 assists while logging an average of 22:51 in ice time. He became an unrestricted free agent after his five-year, $22.5 million contract expired this summer.

Update (3:27 p.m. ET):

The club has confirmed the signing.

“Ron is an experienced, two-way defenseman,” said general manager Jim Rutherford. “He was very interested in joining our team this summer, and was patient as we waited for updated information about Joni Pitkanen’s injury. We are happy to be able to solidify our defense with a player of this caliber at this stage.”

Carolina Blue: Pitkanen (heel) to miss entire season


The Carolina Hurricanes were dealt a major blow on Tuesday as GM Jim Rutherford announced defenseman Joni Pitkanen would miss the 2013-14 season with a broken left calcaneus (heel) bone suffered last season on an icing crash against Washington.

Pitkanen, 29, recently underwent a CT scan on the heel to see how he was recovering. The injury was extremely severe — Pitkanen reportedly broke his heel in eight different places — and was similar to the one ex-Washington forward Pat Peake suffered in 1996, one that all but ended his career.

Here’s more, from the Washington Times:

Peake played just five more games after his heel bone broke in 14 places and twisted. Pitkanen’s broke in eight places but didn’t move, Peake said. That’s considered a positive.

“Your heel bone, the best way to describe it is like an egg. So if you give it a good flick or a thump, it just kind of splinters and cracks like that,” Peake said. “And it just goes right around the whole way. That’s exactly what happened to his. It’s such an odd injury.”

Peake said it’s an injury common to construction workers who fall from two or three stories and people in car accidents who slam on the brakes. In hockey, Peake was the prime example before Pitkanen.

Pitkanen was a valuable member of the ‘Canes blueline. Prior to injury-plagued 2012-13 and 2011-12 seasons, he put up 81 points in 143 games between 2009-11, averaging close to 26 minutes per night.

What’s more, the Finnish rearguard is in the final year of his three-year, $13.5 million deal. He’s set to become a UFA at season’s end and will be facing an uphill struggle to find work, considering he’s only played sporadically over the last three seasons.

And, just to add further insult to injury, the heel break will keep Pitkanen from representing Finland at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. He was one of the 16 defensemen named to the evaluation camp roster in July.

Related: NHL to implement hybrid icing next season if trial period goes well