I love watching old highlights of Jarkko Ruttu getting an opposing player off his game and forcing a stupid penalty, but lately he does not seem effective. Is the word out on Ruutu? Do opposing players know simply not to mess with him anymore?
Patrick Herward, Shadyside
MOLINARI: There's nothing secret about the methods players like Ruutu use to antagonize opponents with the intent of getting them off their games or into the penalty box, so it doesn't matter if "the word is out" on them. When they're at their best, they can goad all but the most composed opponents into taking a swing at them, or doing something equally outside the rules.
Getting under most opponents' skin usually takes time, though, and Ruutu -- mostly on merit -- didn't play all that much during his eight appearances before the Penguins' game in Minnesota last night. He logged five minutes, 58 seconds in the opener then, after being a healthy scratch for the next two games, got on the ice for fewer than five minutes in each of the two that followed.
Ruutu played between 8:14 and 9:18 in each of the subsequent five, which meant he had a little more of an opportunity to infuriate guys on the other team, but he didn't succeed in getting anyone to snap and do something that gave the Penguins a chance to alter the course of a game, or seize control of it.
Ruutu is in the final season of a two-year deal he signed as a free agent, and unless he's able to establish himself as an integral member of the team over the next four or five months, he probably will be a longshot to be retained.
Q: I thought the NHL was going back to light-colored home uniforms this year. Is there a set timetable for when it will return to home whites?
Rob Pfaff, Wesley Chapel, N.C.
MOLINARI: Although the NHL has alternated between having home teams wear dark and white sweaters several times throughout its history and figures to go back to home clubs in white at some point, there are no plans in place for that to happen. And because the league's Board of Governors discussed the topic at length during the summer and opted to maintain the status quo, it might well be a number of years before another switch is made.
Q: Has anyone picked up Eric Cairns or Ronald Petrovicky?
Matt Mazer, Columbus, Ohio
MOLINARI: Cairns' playing career ended after 42 quality seconds of work last season -- that's how long he was on the ice in his only appearance of 2006-07 before Ottawa enforcer Brian McGrattan landed the punch that gave Cairns the concussion that prevented him from dressing again before his contract expired in June -- and he subsequently took a jack-of-all-trades job with the New York Islanders, for whom he once played.
Petrovicky, a reasonably effective agitator at times during his season with the Penguins, was unable to find work in the NHL and signed with Dukle Trencin in his native Slovakia just over a month ago.