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The Piece to the Playoff Puzzle

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Scuderi is one of two Kings with a Stanley Cup on his resume.

Of all the Kings, Rob Scuderi draws perhaps the least attention to himself.

Highlights

On the ice, Scuderi is the classic stable, stay-at-home defenseman, the type usually only noticed when they make mistakes. Off the ice, Scuderi is all business, always good for an insightful quote but otherwise content to remain in the background.

How funny, then, that during last season’s Stanley Cup Finals, Scuderi drew good-natured ribbing from his Pittsburgh Penguins teammates, when, during an interview, he referred to himself as "the piece to the puzzle that you need to get a championship."

Scuderi quickly said he intended to say "a piece," not "the piece," but the damage had been done. A nickname had been coined. Scuderi was "The Piece." The nickname didn’t follow Scuderi to Los Angeles, but its context is just as relevant as it was 12 months ago.

Signed as a free agent last July, Scuderi is a major piece of the Kings’ puzzle, one of the big reasons that the Kings are in position to break a seven-year playoff drought.

"I know I'm new here this year," Scuderi said. "I know it's not like I'm the reason why (the team is winning). There are plenty of guys in here saying the right things. To me, the biggest thing is just the maturity of this team, taking another step forward and playing well."

It’s not just Scuderi’s steady defense that helps, although he has proved to be a great complement to second-year star Drew Doughty. It’s also the fact that the young Kings have a player in their room who lifted the Stanley Cup less than 12 months ago. Scuderi might not be the most vocal King, but when he speaks, his teammates know to listen.

"For a peer to have just won the Stanley Cup," coach Terry Murray said, "and point out the small areas, the important areas, the critical areas that make a difference in any given situation, any given game, I think it has an incredible impact on young hockey players."

Only 31 years old, and in his fifth full NHL season, Scuderi is definitely one of the Kings’ older souls. He is serious and introspective and, to the untrained eye, quiet.

To that end, Scuderi even surprised his coach. Earlier this season, Murray relayed, to reporters, his surprise at entering the Kings’ locker room during an intermission and hearing Scuderi address the team. Murray, like most, had presumed Scuderi to be the quiet, lead-by-example type.

For the most part, he is, but when occasion arises, Scuderi isn’t afraid to call upon his experience. It’s no cliche to say that Scuderi has seen it all. He played on the 2005-06 Pittsburgh team that totaled only 58 points, and rode the wave that eventually took the Penguins to the Stanley Cup championship last season.

"I don't bring up anything that happened in the past," Scuderi said, "but I think that when I speak, it comes from past experience. I think guys realize that. I don't say, `Hey, last year in Pittsburgh, we did this or we did that.' I just say it, in general, to the team, and I'm not the only guy saying stuff. Hopefully the guys listen up, because it's definitely coming from good experiences."

Continue to Part II.

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