A case could be made for Olli Maatta, who returned to the ice after having a cancerous tumor removed.
Or Kris Letang, who is having a career year after a serious head injury ended his 2014-15 season early.
Even a player such as Matt Cullen, still going strong at age 39, could be a candidate for the 2016 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, given annually to the player who, the NHL says, “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”
Yet Pascal Dupuis, whose Penguins career ended prematurely at age 36 because of blood-clotting issues, is the Penguins’ Masterton nominee this year, as voted on by members of the Pittsburgh Hockey Writers Association. Three Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writers are voting members.
“It’s something you don’t really want to hear, want to win. But, when people see something when you’re done that shows perseverance and all the criteria to be selected for that award, it kind of touches you,” Dupuis said.
Dupuis had worked the entire offseason to attempt a comeback for the 2015-16 season and made it work for more than two months by jumping through all kinds of medical hoops.
But he announced his decision to hang up his skates on a road trip in Colorado a few weeks before Christmas. It came on the heels of a health scare that included chest pains.
Now Dupuis helps the team from the press box during games, dressed in a suit. He keeps tabs on the penalty-kill and notes breakdowns — anything that might help the Penguins gain an edge.
Dupuis said this week there are still days he questions his role with the team.
“That’s the part that I’m still right on the fence. Am I still a part of it? Am I completely outside of it? Am I in their way? Am I the awkward guy just trying to make them laugh?” he said. “There’s a fine line you have to be walking on.”
Some things, he said, have become clearer to him in the three months since he hung up his skates.
“When I’m home, when I’m away from this, I’m completely fine,” Dupuis said. “I love my wife. I love my kids. I have a life outside of here but, as soon as I come here, that becomes the hardest part.”
So why come around at all?
“I care for these guys,” Dupuis said. “I want them to do good. I like to think that I could help some of them, that I can bring it during the games or even just talking [to] players. You know … what I can bring to a locker room.”
The Penguins power-play woes continued Sunday at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers as they went 0 for 2 with the man-advantage.
The second power play was played largely in overtime, yet there was still no conversion.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t put one of those power plays in but we stuck with it,” Sidney Crosby said of the Penguins’ 3-2 win. “Had some good chances and could’ve easily finished it off in overtime. I think we just stayed focused.”
Sundqvist sent down again
The Penguins re-assigned center Oskar Sundqvist to their minor league affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Sundqvist most recently was called up when center Nick Bonino was questionable for the weekend road games. Instead, Bonino played in both.
The Penguins will roll out their team awards this week, culminating with the Most Valuable Player honor Saturday. Tuesday, they will name the recipient of the Edward J. DeBartolo Memorial Community Service Award. Rookie of the Year will be named Wednesday, Defensive Player of the Year Thursday and the Players’ Player Award winner will be named Friday.
Jenn Menendez: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez.
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