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Ruutu searches for his 'A' game
There aren't too many facets of Tuomo Ruutu's season he is satisfied with except for the fact he has been in the lineup every night since the end of October.
That's not insignificant, considering how much time Ruutu has missed the last two seasons because of injuries.
Ruutu was in the lineup for his 66th game Friday night when the Blackhawks snapped a six-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Patrick Sharp, Martin Havlat and Martin Lapointe had the goals for the Hawks. For Havlat, it was his 25th of the season and snapped a streak of 13 games without one. Lapointe's goal, short-handed, was his third in his last 38 games.
After playing every game in his rookie season of 2003-04, Ruutu couldn't play anywhere the lockout season because of a shoulder injury and played only 15 games last season because of back and ankle injuries.
When he sprained his knee in the preseason after Columbus defenseman Rostislav Klesla low-bridged him, it looked as if the frustrations would continue. But after missing the first 10 games of the season, Ruutu has missed only one since, and that was due to the flu.
"It's so much fun to play," Ruutu said.
But while it's fun to play, he knows this hasn't been a very productive season, with only 16 goals and 36 points.
"I'm not satisfied with the way I've played," Ruutu said. "I've had some games where I've played well, but I haven't been consistent enough."
The Hawks were counting heavily on Ruutu to produce offensively. He had 23 goals and 44 points in his rookie season.
Hawks coach Denis Savard said Ruutu sometimes strays outside the team structure.
Ruutu signed a two-year contract last summer worth $2 million per season. While the Hawks still consider him a part of their future, it's believed they would entertain an offer for him this summer if it would upgrade the Hawks' skill level.
After being drafted ninth overall in 2001, Ruutu is the longest-serving Hawk in only his third season.
One question the Hawks will ask this summer is whether the low production is a result of the missed time or if Ruutu isn't the type of offensive player the Hawks envisioned him being.
Duncan Keith was denied on a penalty shot midway through the third period. The play was an extremely rare event for the Hawks. The team's last penalty shot was Feb. 25, 2003, when Steve Sullivan was denied against Philadelphia's Roman Cechmanek. The last penalty shot goal was Dec. 13, 2002, when Alex Zhamnov scored in Buffalo. The Hawks have never scored on a penalty shot in the United Center and haven't scored on a penalty shot at home since Troy Murray converted against Minnesota on Dec. 30, 1987. They have failed to score on 14 consecutive penalty shots at home.
Nikita Alexeev was a healthy scratch for the third straight game. Peter Bondra missed his second straight game and sixth of the last seven with a shoulder injury.