Jarkko Ruutu met his new Senators teammates yesterday and maybe one or two might have asked to see the scar.
You know, the one from the high-stick he took from former Senator Martin Lapointe in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final with just over a minute to go in the game. The Penguins scored on the power play to win it after the Senators had come back from a 3-0 deficit and went on to sweep Ottawa.
To say Ruutu embellished it would be like saying Sidney Crosby is a pretty good player. Lapointe insisted he might have brushed Ruutu's helmet. From Ruutu's reaction, you would have thought a shot came from the Grassy Knoll.
"I've never drawn a line on what I can and can't do," Ruutu has said in the past. "I'll do whatever it takes to win."
Now, Ruutu, who finished third in a Sports Illustrated poll of NHL players asked to identify the dirtiest player in the league, is a Senator, signed to a three-year deal this summer which will play him $1.3 million US a year.
"I'm excited. It's really fun to be here and be back in Canada. It's where the game matters the most," Ruutu said yesterday minutes before he scrimmaged with his new best friends at Scotiabank Place.
Ruutu, wearing wire-rimmed glasses and looking quite unlike one of the most despised players in the league, will be bringing his super-pest act to Ottawa, giving the Senators an edge they have lacked pretty much since they came into the league. Along with a player like Sean Avery (who topped the SI poll) of the Stars, Ruutu sets the standard when it comes to agitating in the NHL.
NO NIGHTS OFF IN CANADA
"I guess you could say so. That's why I get paid a lot, I'm sure," said the 33-year-old. "I don't think they want me to score goals. I have to play with my strengths and not try to do too much other stuff. Obviously, you want to score when you get the chance.
"I have to prove myself every night. That's the key. Whether you have a 10-year contract or not, it doesn't matter. You have to put yourself in situations where you can make the difference in the game. That's what's fun about the game in Canada. You can't get away with stuff like taking a night off."
Ruutu scored a career-high 10 goals with the Canucks in 2005-06 and has had seven and six the last two years with the Penguins while picking up 125 and 138 penalty minutes in each of those seasons. His style has made him a popular guy on YouTube after he had a great toe-to-toe scrap with former Maple Leaf Darcy Tucker (which should endear him to Senators fans right away) in January and was the stompee when Chris Simon got suspended for 30 games after bringing his skate down on Ruutu's foot in December.
Ruutu said fitting in with new teammates -- even some who might have despised him in the past -- isn't an issue, at least not for him.
"I don't take it personal. Whatever happens on the ice, you try to get an advantage for your team and there's a lot of emotions involved. When you start being personal about it, it doesn't work out. I don't really remember what I say on the ice or do. I'll just try to look ahead," he said.
Making his club tougher to play against has been one of the priorities for Senators GM Bryan Murray this summer. The additions of defenceman Jason Smith and Ruutu are moves in the right direction.
"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. 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 some other players might bring, but he brings an attitude and work ethic. He addresses an issue that we really had on this hockey team and that's character, hard work and finish your check, make it difficult on the goaltender because you drive the net regularly.
"You like competitive people and I certainly regard him as a competitive person."