Defenseman Rob Scuderi was one of just a handful of regulars who participated in an optional Penguins practice Saturday at Southpointe, and it wasn't the first time this postseason that the 35-year-old veteran has joined a group of mostly scratched players.
"We had a couple of days off [recently] and optionals the days before," Scuderi said. "You just like to mix it up once in a while and keep the body guessing."
The dry wit of the last part of that comment, which was delivered with a perfectly straight face and a parenthetical shrug, captures Scuderi's personality well.
That personality carries into games, where Scuderi has built a reputation as a steady defensive defenseman who wouldn't know flashy if it cross-checked him in the mouth.
Whether it's because of that style and approach -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma used the word "unassuming" a few times Saturday -- or a few mistakes that have stood out, Scuderi seems to have become a target of criticism at times this postseason in places such as social media and sports call-in shows. At one point Friday in the Penguins' 5-1 loss to the New York Rangers, former Penguins defenseman and Stanley Cup winner Peter Taglianetti tweeted, "I think it is time for Scuderi to watch a few games from the stands."
While penalty killing in the second period with the Penguins trailing, 3-1, Scuderi got his stick on the puck in the corner, but the Rangers got it back and scored on a blast from the point by Ryan McDonagh.
"We had some unforced errors; his was one of them," Bylsma said. "Penalty kill, we don't get a clear and it ends up in the back of the net.
"That's not the [team's] only mistake in the game."
Bylsma does not concur with those who wonder if Scuderi's performance this postseason has fallen off. Far from it.
"Rob's, I think, probably played some of his best hockey for us in these playoffs this year," Bylsma said.
"Columbus Game 5 and 6 [in the first round], and Game 2 and 4 in this series, he played Rob Scuderi-type of hockey for us. That's a fairly unassuming type of role."
Scuderi and Hal Gill formed an effective shutdown defensive pairing for the Penguins in their 2009 Stanley Cup run. Scuderi then signed with Los Angeles and won another Cup before returning to the Penguins last summer through free agency.
A broken ankle in October slowed him, and he was limited to 53 games this season, in which he had four assists, just one minor penalty and a plus-minus rating of minus-8.
Originally, Scuderi was slated to be paired with dynamic offensive defenseman Kris Letang this season, but the Penguins defensemen rarely have all been healthy. Lately, Scuderi has been paired with Robert Bortuzzo, who is getting his first playoff experience filling in for Brooks Orpik, who is injured for the second time this postseason.
"With all the injuries and the pairings shifting around, it's been a little bit different for me as far as a role, but you're still trying to do your job every time you go onto the ice," Scuderi said. "You're just trying to do your job -- not let the other team score, move the puck and try not to have big scoring chances against."
Asked if perhaps his unflashy style and laid-back personality might help fuel any criticism of him, Scuderi said: "It's possible. I don't really worry about that stuff. You want to be on top of your game, but I don't worry about outside influences much. I just try to do what I know has worked for me in the past and what I think will continue to bring me success in the future."
Through 11 playoff games this spring, Scuderi has no points, three minor penalties and is minus-3.
"I feel good," he said. "Sometimes maybe the plays don't happen the way you want them. It's not something where you try to impress or try to force plays. That's not the type of guy I am. You just try to be in the right position. If things happen, things happen as far as making plays.
"I don't feel any different or feel like I'm doing anything different."
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.