Here’s what we know: Anaheim Ducks forward Jarkko Ruutu has been suspended for one game after his late hit that knocked Predators winger Martin Erat out of Game 4 Wednesday night.
Here’s what we don’t know: why this suspension matters.
Oh you’ll think it matters right now, probably because it’s Ruutu, and you enjoy his presence about as much as that one mosquito buzzing around the bedroom when you’re trying to sleep. He prances around with his jerkish smile and laughs his way out of every post-whistle scrum he initiates, and he’s only fought five times over the past two seasons.
And that’s all he does. Ruutu was part of the Ottawa exodus in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, and with his 12 points this season representing his lowest output since 2003-04, he’s also one of the most meaningless deadline acquisitions. In what is perhaps an attempt to justify his position in the lineup, Ruutu increased his time in the penalty box as the season came to a close. Since April 2 Ruutu has appeared in seven games for the Ducks, and has 38 penalty minutes. Now that’s production, I guess.
So aside from rewarding those who believe Ruutu is among the lowest forms of hockey scum, this suspension means little for Anaheim, but everything for Nashville. Ruutu clearly isn’t a key player for the Ducks after being a healthy scratch for Games 2 and 3, and even when he’s in the lineup he’s seeing about six minutes of ice time. Only enforcer George Parros has been off the bench less for Anaheim so far in the playoffs.
Ruutu will sit out Game 5 Friday for the late hit, but as I noted last night, if that was deemed his only crime then the two-minute interference minor he was given should have been sufficient. The hit was also high, and depending on what angle you viewed, Ruutu either caught Erat with an elbow, or the elbow flared out from his body as a result of his follow through.
While Ruutu’s loss may be insignificant for a Ducks team that will see the return of Bobby Ryan from his two-game suspension, the impact on the Predators will leave a deep offensive wound. Erat’s 50 points tied him for the lead on the Predators’ roster in the regular season, and he has three points so far against the Ducks, including a goal and an assist in Game 3. He’s a primary source of offence for a team that didn’t have a 30-goal scorer, and ranked 22nd in scoring.
Erat has already been declared out for Game 5 with an upper-body injury (see: concussion), which inspired some fighting words from Nashville head coach Barry Trotz. If the Ducks eliminate Nashville and Erat doesn’t play another game, Ruutu has justified his existence in this series, and that’s depressing.