Wednesday will be the first day in eight seasons Sidney Crosby won't have Pascal Dupuis as a Pittsburgh Penguins teammate.
Dupuis on Tuesday said he will no longer play because of a medical condition related to blood clots.
Crosby and Dupuis have often been linemates since Dupuis joined the Penguins during the 2007-08 season. The Penguins captain was asked what Dupuis meant to him during that time.
"I don't think I can get through it," Crosby told the Penguins website. "It's definitely a difficult situation. Most guys wouldn't have been able to even come back after what he went through the last couple of years. But it's something he needs to do at this point in his life. He has a family and he has to look out for himself. But we're going to miss him a lot. He's a great guy, great teammate. I know he'll have a hard time staying away from the rink, so hopefully we'll see lots of him."
PENGUINS' DUPUIS STEPS AWAY
Dupuis, 36, was diagnosed with blood clots in January 2014 shortly after sustaining torn ligaments in his knee, and after a blood clot in his lung was discovered in November 2014, he missed the remainder of that season. He was cleared to work out and take contact in June 2015 and played his first game this season on Oct. 22.
Dupuis felt pain in his chest Dec. 1 against the San Jose Sharks, one of several games he either left early or did not play for precautionary reasons. He was cleared and returned to play back-to-back games against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks last weekend but said he was already considering retirement. He had two goals and two assists in 18 games.
Dupuis scored an NHL career-high 25 goals in 2011-12. Dupuis debuted with Pittsburgh on Feb. 28, 2008, after being traded by the Atlanta Thrashers; the Penguins lost the Stanley Cup Final that season but won the Cup in 2009.
"We worry about him as a person, not as a hockey player," forward Chris Kunitz said. "We appreciate all the memories, but you have to take care of your family and self before your team. He's always thought of the team first in almost every aspect of his professional career.
"He's always smiling, joking, a fun guy to be around every single day. It doesn't matter what's going on in his personal life, bad days at the rink. He's a guy you can lean on to make the environment easier. But he's also a guy that will work every single time to be the best player that he is. It's a huge loss in the locker room."
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury recalled questioning the trade for Dupuis at first before realizing what kind of person and teammate he was.
"[I thought] who is this guy? We got [Marian] Hossa (in the trade), who is this Dupuis guy?" Fleury said. "He got along with everyone right away. He's just that type of guy. Right off the bat, he was easy to get along with. He's always been a big part of our team. ... He was a good teammate. I feel fortunate I got to play with him for so many years and won with him."
Dupuis had 190 goals and 409 points in 871 NHL games, 452 with the Penguins. It wasn't easy telling his teammates the news.
"It made it emotional for me," he said. "Obviously, the guys on the bench or in the locker room were concerned about how I was feeling. I don't want to be a distraction now."
Penguins coach Mike Johnston praised Dupuis' work ethic and his continued drive to get back into the lineup.
"Even last year, the way he tried to battle back and return for the playoffs, you have a lot of respect for a player like that," Johnston said. "He puts the team first in every avenue. He's an all-team guy. That's why fans rally around him; his teammates rally around him."
Rookie forward Daniel Sprong, a healthy scratch the past eight games, will replace Dupuis in the lineup. He has two goals in 14 games this season.
"Sprong will be in and we looked at a couple different combinations for lines," Johnston said.