Kings' Doughty knows how valuable Scuderi can be on, off ice

PENGUINS


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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The previous time Rob Scuderi arrived -- not just came to town, but arrived -- in the home of the Los Angeles Kings, he was a stay-at-home defenseman who had just scratched winning the Stanley Cup off of his bucket list.

Scuderi signed as a free agent with the Kings shortly after winning the 2009 Cup with the Penguins, leaving behind his original team. After four seasons with Los Angeles, including a second Cup, Scuderi rejoined the Penguins before this season.

While his role on the ice has been stable over the years, the reliable Scuderi, 35, returned to Penguins as a player who is ready and willing to lend his voice when needed. In the locker room. On the ice. On the bench.

"When I first went out to L.A., there were only maybe one or two guys that spoke," Scuderi said. "It was a big change. The group we had [with the Penguins] when we won, there were more guys that were talkative.

"I don't mind speaking. I would speak in the locker room between periods, on the bench, stuff like that. It's just something that happened."

Scuderi arrived again Wednesday, this time more in the conventional sense -- on a trip with the Penguins, who play the Kings tonight at Staples Center.

Sidney Crosby and goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff were among Scuderi's Penguins teammates who took a minute -- a couple, actually -- before a practice at Toyota Sports Center to scope out a huge photo of the 2012 Kings on the ice around the Cup.

"We were trying to find him," Crosby said of Scuderi.

"They were asking me why I wasn't a little closer to the Cup," Scuderi said. "I'm more of a back-row guy."

Back row, maybe, but he hardly has been forgotten by the Kings.

"We came here pretty much the same time, and we were a fairly young team -- we're still a young team," Los Angeles center Jarret Stoll said. "He had that calming voice, that calming attitude. The way he plays is the way he is."

Scuderi likely made his biggest impact on defenseman Drew Doughty, a first-round draft pick in his second NHL season when Scuderi joined Los Angeles.

They formed a defensive pairing for much of Scuderi's four seasons with the Kings, including the 2012 Cup run.

"[Scuderi] was huge for me," Doughty said. "Him and I as a pair, we just jelled together so well.

"We had so much fun on the ice. We liked to mess around a little bit in practice. We had this serious side, too, but, even in games sometimes, if the other guy made a horribly bad play, instead of at times yelling at each other about it, we would kind of laugh it off.

"I had so much fun with him on the ice, off the ice. Loved going for dinner with him, things like that. He's a great pro, and he's a great person. I really miss him around here."

The Kings' loss in free agency in the summer was the Penguins' gain.

Although Scuderi missed two months, from late October to late December, because of a broken ankle that required surgery, he has provided the same consistently strong defensive play. It certainly isn't his two points, both assists, that endear him to the Penguins.

A lot of defensive defensemen might be described as quietly consistent, but Scuderi isn't always quiet in this second stint with the club that drafted him in the fifth round in 1998.

"When I came back, it's not a bad group as far as locker-room talk," Scuderi said. "We talk when things need to be said. But, sometimes, it's good to break up the quiet every once in a while and say something, keep things loose, whatever [the circumstance] is. I hope that I can step up at the right times and be that person -- along with other guys."

Scuderi is a respected voice, and he knows why.

"It's part of being a veteran," he said. "You don't have to talk all the time, but you have to know when to speak and what to say. By far the most important thing is, you have to walk the walk. You can't just be in [the locker room] yapping the whole time. You have to go out there and at least play your individual game and do what you do well. That's how you earn respect."

Scuderi is partnered this season with Kris Letang, the Penguins' most dynamic and likely most scrutinized defenseman.

At least, the idea is to have them play together -- a steady defensive guy and a skilled guy.

The problem is that because of injuries to both players, they have appeared in the same game just 13 times. Add to that a season with a compact schedule in an Olympic year that hasn't allowed for a lot of practices. That has hindered their development.

"Chemistry sometimes has to be worked on, and it's going to take us a while," Scuderi said. "We're still working on it.

"We're still talking in practice about certain situations, what he wants to do, what he would like me to do. We just have to work on that stuff.

"He's got a dynamic skill set, and you want to take advantage of that, but there are also certain parts of the ice where, as a defenseman, you just want your guy to be in the same place. That's what we're trying to work on right now."

It's the kind of on-ice presence he had with Doughty, who is looking forward to facing Scuderi tonight.

"I'm hoping I can get a one-on-one with him or something because I know his weakness," Doughty said, smiling.

Would he care to share it?

"No," Doughty said.

 

Scouting report

 

Matchup: Penguins vs. Los Angeles Kings, 10:38 p.m. today, Staples Center, Los Angeles.

 

TV, radio: Root Sports, WXDX-FM (105.9).

 

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins; Jonathan Quick for Kings.

 

Penguins: Are 3-2-1 in past six road games, with four of those games decided by one goal. ... Penalty-killing leads NHL at 87.6 percent, but is 11 for 16 (68.8 percent) in past four road games. ... Chris Kunitz and Matt Niskanen are tied for team lead with five game-winning goals each.

 

Kings: Are 1-5-1 in past seven games and have been shut out twice in past four games. ... Have not faced Penguins since Nov. 5, 2011, a 3-2 home loss. ... Anze Kopitar has two overtime goals and has scored five times in shootouts.

 

Hidden stat: Kings' power play is 5 for 59 in January, including a current 0-for-18 skid.

Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 or Twitter @pgshelly.


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