Scuderi loves fans' reaction to Penguins

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It's not that Rob Scuderi didn't enjoy his four years in Los Angeles.

And why wouldn't he have?

The veteran defenseman had a high-paying job in a place with terrific weather, and some world-class talents for co-workers.

And then there was that Stanley Cup ring he earned in 2012.

But now that he is back with the Penguins -- the team with which he began his NHL career and with which he won his first Cup -- Scuderi can appreciate how the atmosphere is a bit different than he experienced in California.

And it has nothing to do with dew points or smog.

Hockey interest in Western Pennsylvania might not be quite on the level of, say, Montreal or Toronto -- places where the psychological well-being of an entire region seems linked to the success of its NHL franchise -- but the Penguins fan base has become as passionate as it is large.

"Besides the geographical differences and weather and stuff like that, I think [the Penguins] are a little higher on the food chain here," Scuderi said Tuesday.

"I thought Los Angeles hockey, in terms of the overall scope of the sport, picked up a lot during my four years there, but, overall, it's still lower on the food chain than basketball, and even the Dodgers when they get good.

"It's a little bit different here in Pittsburgh. There's a little more intensity around it, a little more expectation. Sometimes, it's kind of nice to come back to a place where you know it's going to mean a lot from day one, and that the people expect a lot from day one."

Scuderi, signed as a free agent in July, was one of 20 Penguins players and prospects who participated in an informal workout Tuesday at Consol Energy Center.

Before leaving as a free agent in 2009, he spent three full seasons and parts of two others with the Penguins, during which time the franchise was based in Mellon Arena.

Scuderi spoke fondly of the quirkiness and character of that building -- reminiscing, for example, about how smoke used in a pregame ceremony there could linger until deep into the first period -- and said that the move into the Consol Energy Center is one of the few major differences from his first stint.

"The new arena is a beautiful place, unbelievable facility," he said. "But aside from that, it doesn't seem like much has changed. The locker room is still a group of guys that, I can feel from my short time here, has expectations of themselves and wants to do well.

"That's something that was here when I left. And to come right back into it is a good feeling."

Although returning to the Penguins, whose place among Stanley Cup contenders should be enhanced by the strong defensive game Scuderi plays, might have seemed like a logical move when his deal in Los Angeles expired, they weren't the only club Scuderi considered.

Fact is, the Penguins and Kings had a lot of company on his list of possible destinations.

"There were other teams," he said.

"I pretty much told myself that I wouldn't sign with a team in the West unless it was Los Angeles, and I was certainly interested in looking in the East.

"There were three or four teams that were in the mix, but, considering all the factors, Pittsburgh, by far, made the most sense for me and for my family."

Scuderi is 34, and his self-sacrificing style of play can take a toll, especially when a player is deep into his career. Scuderi, though, has been remarkably durable, sitting out no games in the past three seasons, and only 10 in the past five.

"I've been fortunate to not miss a lot of games," he said. "I know that's partly due to luck and partly due to how you move around the ice, how you take care of yourself and things of that nature.

"I guess I just don't think about it. I still enjoy what I do, I still feel good and I love to do it."

NOTES -- Former Penguins winger Tom Kostopoulos agreed to a minor-league contract with their minor league team in Wilkes-Barre. He had joined the Baby Penguins on a tryout deal in January and signed an NHL contract with the Penguins March 5, but subsequently was claimed on waivers by New Jersey before he could play here. ... A busload of Penguins prospects and free agents is scheduled to leave today for London, Ontario, where they will participate in a tournament that runs through Sunday. Chicago, Toronto and Ottawa also are sending squads.


Dave Molinari: and Twitter @MolinariPG.


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