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Original Issue

Inside The NHL

Playoff Pest
The Canucks' Jarkko Ruutu earns ice time by rubbing foes the
wrong way

Quick quiz: Is Jarkko Ruutu a) an evildoer in the new X-Men
movie, b) an exotic intestinal virus or c) the NHL's newest
playoff villain? The answer is c, though the Canucks' forward
plays with the nastiness of a and can be as much of a pain to
opponents as b. Ruutu had just one assist in 11 playoff games
through Monday, but his fingerprints--along with marks left by
his elbows and stick blade--were all over Vancouver's seven-game,
first-round series win over the Blues and its Round 2 matchup
with the Wild, which the Canucks led 3-2 after a 7-2 loss at home
on Monday. Says Minnesota forward Antti Laaksonen, "He likes to
get under your skin."

On every shift Ruutu, 27, hurls his 6'2", 200-pound body around
like a wrecking ball, often treating the officials' whistles as
round-opening bells rather than signals to stop play. His
stickwork and instigating, which includes yapping, have drawn at
least five penalties that resulted in Vancouver power plays.
After an unsportsmanlike-conduct call on St. Louis's Barret
Jackman, Ruutu winked at him as Jackman skated to the penalty
box. "When guys try to get back at you, you know you've got
them," says Ruutu.

For most of the season the Canucks brass was as frustrated with
Ruutu as foes were because of his penchant for taking
undisciplined penalties. He was a healthy scratch 46 times during
the regular season and expected to be shipped out at the March
trade deadline. In one practice Ruutu started a fight with
teammate Matt Cooke just to get attention. Says G.M. Brian Burke,
"There were times when I said [to coach Marc Crawford], 'If you
dress him again, I'm going to kill him.'"

In the postseason, however, Ruutu has smartened up. "He's a more
patient and persistent player," says Burke. But still a player
that opponents love to hate.

Record for Multiple Overtimes
Sudden Death Not So Sudden

The Devils clinched their series against the Lightning last
Friday with a 2-1 victory in Game 5, but as defenseman Scott
Stevens said, "We almost played six games." Indeed, New Jersey
needed 2 1/2 overtime periods to win that match and the war of
attrition. It was the NHL's record eighth multiple-OT game of the

The late nights and tired legs are by-products of meetings
between evenly matched teams that have mastered conservative
systems. In tight games clubs try to prevent scoring chances,
often to the detriment of their offense. "If a game is tied late,
teams wait for the other guys to crack," says Flyers coach Ken
Hitchcock, whose squad has played three multiple-overtime games.
"That's how well-disciplined teams are."

COLOR PHOTO: ELSA/GETTY IMAGES/NHLI Ruutu (37) gave Andrew Brunette a hard ride into the Wild benchduring Game 3.