Tuomo Ruutu is ready.
Ready to get back on the ice for the Canes, ready to rejoin the lineup, ready to rejoin Eric Staal's line.
Ruutu has not played since suffering an upper-body injury in Montreal on Feb. 13, missing the last 10 games. But he resumed skating about two weeks ago and was back at practice for the first time today at Raleigh Center Ice.
"I'm so ready, you know," a smiling Ruutu said today. "It's fun, being out there with the team. It's so much fun."
Canes coach Kirk Muller said if there is no soreness from today's practice, Ruutu could play tomorrow against the Tampa Bay Lightning. In the workout at RCI, he was back on the line with Staal and Jiri Tlusty.
"He skated well today," Muller said. "He was skating hard and I put him right up on that line. If there's no effects hopefully we'll get him back tomorrow."
That's what Ruutu wants. He's not much for watching games from the press level.
"It's frustrating," Ruutu said of being sidelined. "The guys have been playing well but it's really frustrating to not be able to do your part. At the same time I knew I'd be out there after a little while.
"There's nothing you can do. That's the way it is in hockey. It's a physical sport and players get hurt."
Ruutu was injured after taking a quick hit in the chest area from the Canadiens' Tomas Plekanec. It all happened in a flash and just like that he was headed to the bench.
"It wasn't even a big collision," Ruutu said. "Sometimes, you hit the right spot. That's what happened but it's nice to be healthy again."
Ruutu has 17 goals and 12 assists in 57 games this season.
Defenseman Joni Pitkanen, out since early December, did some skating today before practice.