Penguins' Dupuis works for increased role

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LOS ANGELES -- The accoutrement that Pascal Dupuis will strap on tonight when the Penguins play the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center will be standard hockey issue -- jersey, pads, thick pants, skates, gloves, helmet.

Just like his teammates and opponents.

For a different look, you would have to go back to the summer, when Dupuis dressed in skin-tight bicycle riding wear and regularly took to the paved trails in the Montreal area.


Today

Game: Penguins at Los Angeles Kings, 10:38 p.m. today, Staples Center, Los Angeles.

TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9).

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

Penguins: Are 1-3 at LA since 1999. ... D Alex Goligoski has 6 goals, 11 points in past 12 games. ... D Jay McKee led NHL with 46 blocked shots through yesterday.

Kings: Are 3-0-2 in past five games. ... C Anze Kopitar led league with 24 points before last night. ... Among NHL leaders at 3.4 goals a game, 23 percent power play.

Hidden stat: Quick needed to make just 13 saves in Kings' 5-3 win Monday at Phoenix.


"I bought a bike and the whole outfit -- my tights, biker shorts, shirt, helmet, gloves, glasses, the whole thing," Dupuis said yesterday after the Penguins practiced at Staples Center.

"My friends and family were laughing at me every time I put it on, but it's a good workout."

Dupuis used to run, but, at 30, he was looking for a more joint-friendly addition to his normal offseason workout.

He also was determined to work his way back to a higher level of relevance with the Penguins. He has had a steady job as a penalty-killer, but his five-on-five role was reduced, often to fourth-line winger, late last season and during the team's run to the Stanley Cup. For a stretch of the playoffs, he was a bystander.

"You want to be part of the equation," Dupuis said. "I was part of that team last year, but I want to be a bigger part of the equation."

The ramped-up offseason workouts might not have won him any fashion awards, but they seem to have sparked an upswing in his game lately and a higher appreciation from coach Dan Bylsma.

After starting the season with no points in six games, Dupuis has a goal in each of the past two games -- the Penguins' only one Saturday in a 2-1 loss at home to Minnesota, and the third-period winner Tuesday in a 4-3 win at Anaheim. In the past nine games, he has five points and a plus-minus rating of plus-1.

Bylsma has had enough confidence in the fleet Dupuis to play him on the right side of the second line, a scoring unit normally centered by Evgeni Malkin with Ruslan Fedotenko on the left side. When Malkin was shelved by a shoulder injury a week ago, Bylsma could have promoted Jordan Staal's third line. Instead, he moved Staal between Fedotenko and Dupuis.

Dupuis logged a season-high 14:49 of ice time Tuesday against the Ducks, nearly double what he averaged in his six games against Detroit during the Stanley Cup final.

That's a reward for his renewed tenacity.

"His speed has always been there," Bylsma said. "What we've seen more of, especially lately, is the willingness to battle to get to pucks first and drive to the net as the middle-lane drive guy instead of always pulling up on the outside and waiting to get the big shot.

"He's gone right to the net. You've seen that a lot from him. That's made him and his skill effective. It's great to see. He's difficult to handle when you can insert him in different spots with that speed."

Skating speed is useless when you are in street clothes, and that is where Dupuis found himself for part of the playoffs when Bylsma chose to dress seven defensemen with Sergei Gonchar ailing.

Finding out you are the most expendable of the team's forwards is not pleasant.

"He would have liked things to have been a little bit different last year playing-time-wise," Bylsma said.

Dupuis -- obtained from Atlanta at the February 2008 trade deadline in a deal that attracted a lot of attention because the Penguins also got Marian Hossa -- so far has topped out at 20 goals and 48 points for Minnesota in 2002-03 when he was 23. He had 12 goals each of the past two seasons.

He wanted to make himself more valuable to the Penguins, whether that meant scoring more or being more reliable in other facets. So, after the Cup celebrations, Dupuis turned to the bicycle and rode like crazy to make sure that, at the very least, he was in top shape. He did interval training to emulate the physical demands of hockey.

"I didn't want to have any doubt, and I didn't want to put any doubt in anybody's head, that I was going to be here and ready to go," he said.

It was an enjoyable, if sweaty, pursuit.

"It was so much fun," Dupuis said. "You see a lot of stuff while you're riding. Plus, you can push yourself physically. It's fun to learn about a new sport, too. I've learned about cycling. I was watching the Tour de France on TV. These guys are unbelievable."


For more on the Penguins, read the new Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Shelly Anderson can be reached at shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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