SUN Hockey Pool

Flames wary of pesky Finn

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

Pest. Agitator. Gnat. Instigator.

Whatever you want to call Jarkko Ruutu, the Vancouver Canucks winger has probably heard many more scathing monikers on the ice.

The feisty Finn has earned a reputation for getting under his opponents' skin and Ruutu did everything but leave a calling card behind on the Saddledome ice Saturday night.

The Calgary Flames came away with a 1-0 win but Ruutu definitely made his presence felt, dropping the gloves with Byron Ritchie and later baiting Dion Phaneuf into an unsportsmanlike penalty.

Ruutu doesn't see his role as anything other than simple and aggressive.

"I play hard. Pretty simple hockey," said Ruutu after yesterday's morning skate at the 'Dome. "I'll drive the net, I'll hit and bang. There's a lot of guys that don't like getting hit and think they shouldn't be hit."

Don't confuse his play with recklessness, though. Ruutu knows exactly what he's doing when he throws his body at someone.

"At the same time, you have to be smart," explained the 6-ft. 2-in. 200-pounder.

"Let them take the penalties, we take the powerplays and capitalize on them.

"I don't think (I've taken) too many unnecessary penalties. You have to take a few in a (certain) situation. Looking at my stats before, I've had way more stupid penalties than this year."

Taking advantage of others' emotions is what an instigator does best and Phaneuf's penalty late in Saturday's game is a great example of how Ruutu helps the Canucks.

After harassing the rookie Flames defender along the boards and exchanging a few words, Ruutu watched as Phaneuf threw down his gloves only to discover he had no dancing partner and would be spending a couple of minutes in the penalty box for his actions.

Phaneuf gives credit where credit is due.

"He plays the game hard. He's got an edge and he plays with an edge," said Phaneuf, who likely won't be goaded again. "He's a smart player in that respect and he does a good job at the style of game he plays."

Ritchie also knows the secret to handling a player like Ruutu.

"You just have to stay disciplined on him and you can't take retaliatory penalties," said Ritchie. "He's effective at it. He's been doing it for a few years. He's a physical player and he gets under a guy's skin."

While opponents get riled up over his actions -- whether he's delivering a clean or questionable hit, or maybe pulling on another player's leg during the post-season -- Ruutu says he remains calm on the ice.

"One of my strengths ... whatever I do out there, I don't get really mad," said Ruutu.

"I know what's going on out there. I know guys are out there to get me and if they get an opportunity, they will. But it goes the other way, too."


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