Pascal Dupuis isn't the only guy in his mid-30s who will play in the NHL this winter.
Fact is, he's nowhere near the oldest.
Teemu Selanne, Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney, Daniel Alfredsson and Martin St. Louis, among others, were born well before Dupuis. All have been productive throughout their careers, and a few can safely begin fine-tuning their Hall of Fame induction speeches when they have a little free time.
Dupuis, who is 34 and will be skating alongside Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz on the Penguins' top line when they open the 2013-14 season against New Jersey at 7:08 p.m. today at Consol Energy Center, likely isn't destined for that kind of professional immortality.
He does, however, have a distinction that might be more rare: His play is improving, year-by-year at a point in his career when most of his peers feel fortunate to maintain, let alone upgrade, their performance level.
"I can support that," said assistant coach Tony Granato, who works with the forwards. "Absolutely."
Even if Dupuis' coaches and co-workers didn't, his statistics do.
Long valued mostly for his responsible defensive work, Dupuis has developed into a reliable scorer, too.
He has 39 even-strength goals over the past two seasons, more than all but five NHL players. That total includes 20 in 48 games last season -- right before he added another seven in 15 playoff appearances.
That came in the wake of a 25-goal season in 2011-12 that was his first with as many as 20 since 2002-03.
All without detracting from his defensive play and penalty-killing.
"He's a guy who shows up every night," Crosby said.
It wasn't so long ago that players, especially non-goalies, of Dupuis' vintage were something of a novelty in the NHL. Not coincidentally, that was back in the days when many, if not most, players believed the best hydration came in a mug, and considered "deep-fried" to be one of the major food groups.
In recent years, however, players have recognized that nutrition and conditioning are critical to extending their tenure in a lucrative line of work, and Dupuis has made a particularly strong commitment to them.
"He's just one of those guys who knows how to take care of himself, knows what it takes to be in the best shape to give him the best chance to be successful," Granato said.
Even though Dupuis all but recoils from the suggestion that he has been improving every year -- "I think my game is still evolving, but 'getting better' is a big word," he said -- he acknowledges that he has not gotten complacent.
"I feel like I'm still learning," he said. "I'm grabbing stuff from everybody that I think are the best in the game.
"Knowing the game a little more. Knowing my game better. Knowing the league. Knowing my own limitations. Knowing what I bring. That makes you a better player."
Of course, it doesn't hurt that Crosby is the guy feeding him pucks.
"He's been getting more consistent minutes with Sid and asked to be a little bit more of a contributor offensively than he maybe was three or four or five years ago," Granato said.
True enough, but Dupuis didn't draw that duty by winning a coin toss. He got an opportunity to work there because of his exceptional skating, his defensive diligence, a sound offensive skills set and some pretty terrific intangibles.
"He's a competitive guy," Crosby said. "He's hungry, and he works hard to get his success."
Dupuis' speed is his most conspicuous asset, and Granato regards skating as the foundation of both his effectiveness and longevity.
"He's a wonderful skater," Granato said. "I think that helps. Some guys, it takes a lot more effort to get up and down the ice.
"He's a natural skater. His speed is going to stay ... for a longer time than [for] most people his age."
There will, of course, come a time when age overtakes Dupuis, no matter how well he gets around the ice now.
Very little suggests that will happen soon, and the Penguins certainly don't seem to be expecting it after giving him a four-year contract worth $3.75 million annually in the offseason.
"In our minds, he's going to have three or four or five more good years because of how he takes care of himself and how he skates," Granato said.
"And what kind of player he is."
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published October 3, 2013 4:00 AM