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Dupuis proving to be valuable pick-up for Penguins

by Larry Wigge

Pascal Dupuis flew under the radar as the “other guy” Pittsburgh acquired in the Marian Hossa deal, but the undrafted winger is used to showing those who would discount him that he’s more than he seems. Dupuis highlights
PITTSBURGH -- You have to be careful what you say when you're talking to Pittsburgh Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis.

This undrafted player, who plays his role as a checker with speed and discipline, is no longer unheralded. He was a key part of the Penguins’ trade deadline-day deal along with Marian Hossa from Atlanta for forwards Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen along with 2007 first-round pick Angelo Esposito and a first-round pick in the 2008 Entry Draft.

When you see Dupuis on the ice on a line with Sidney Crosby and Hossa, you want to say he's the ultimate throw-in. Just don't say it around this 28-year-old Laval, Quebec, native.

Chatting with Dupuis before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, the subject of how he's gone from Minnesota to the New York Rangers to Atlanta and now with Pittsburgh since late in the 2006-07 season, he shakes his head for a minute and then says sarcastically, "All the trades ... you're making me feel like a suitcase."

I told you he's as quick off the ice as he is on, when you consider that while he only has two goals and four assists in 17 playoff games, he leads the Penguins with his plus-6 and in the short period of time since that Feb. 28 trade from Atlanta, Pascal put up nearly a point per game with his two goals and 10 assists in 16 games to finish out the regular season.

More important, Dupuis' points have come in important situations. He scored a goal in Game 1 of the second round of the playoffs to help the Penguins rally from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Rangers. He assisted on Hossa's game-winning goal in overtime of the series-clinching Game 5 against the Rangers and he had one goal and five hits in the Eastern Conference Finals-clinching Game 5 win over Philadelphia.

But the trade to Pittsburgh came as a complete surprise.

"I was actually negotiating on a new contract with Atlanta and I'd been teasing ‘Hoss’ for more than a month before the deadline about how much he was going to like going back to Ottawa or playing in Montreal," Dupuis explained. "In the end, he got the last laugh.

"At first, I joked with reporters that I was coming along to carry Hoss's bags. But I got the dream-of-a-lifetime job of playing on a line with Sid and Hoss."

Penguins General Manager Ray Shero discounted the classic throw-in tag. He admitted he began conversations about Hossa at the All-Star Game in Atlanta with Thrashers GM Don Waddell in late January and once again reminded Waddell of his interest at the general manager's meetings several weeks later. By deadline day it was already established that the Thrashers wanted two roster players – Armstrong and Christensen – and Shero wasn't about to make a trade without getting someone else in return.

"Internally, we had mentioned Pascal a week before the deal was done," Shero told me. "Going into the deadline, our goal was to add character, speed and some help in penalty killing – and he met all three of those needs.

"When I was in Nashville (as assistant GM), we played Minnesota a lot and we always talked about the speed and discipline all of the role players under (coach) Jacques Lemaire brought to the mix. In this case, we knew all about Dupuis' speed. But you never really know about how his character fits into the mix in the locker room. The answer is that character-wise he fits in perfectly."

But that doesn't cover the cause-and-effect that we often find out about in deals such as this.

"That's always the tough part about trades," Dupuis said, this time no smile on his face. "I'm happy to be going to a team like the Penguins. I'm thrilled to be in Pittsburgh, but Carole-Lyne, my wife, is stuck in Atlanta with the kids (Maeva and Kody) and she's eight months pregnant.

"Then, one night I get this call from her at 2 a.m. She's got her mom with here in Atlanta to help, but I don't want to miss this occasion. The Penguins were first class about letting me miss two games. They let me go immediately. I arrived at the hospital at 10:15 a.m. just after they had given her the epidural and Zoe came along at 11."

In some ways, this day was more nerve-wracking then the trade deadline. In fact, Pascal told me he was more nervous on that quick jaunt to Atlanta than the first night he was put on a line with Sidney Crosby.

Dupuis’ story takes on many more layers, when you dig into it.

Pascal Dupuis was born into a hockey family. Dad Claude was a left winger for the Quebec Nordiques of the World Hockey Association. Mom Lyse was in sales. Pascal gladly put on his skates and went through the drill, mom driving him to the rink and dad catching a few games and providing some good advice.

"I'll never forget, he'd watch me play and always say, 'Remember, kid, it's all about the effort.' "

And no one would ever dispute the effort this 6-foot-1, 205-pound speedster provides. This quick-skating, quick-on-his-feet winger went into his draft year highly regarded while playing for Rouyn-Noranda of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. But it ended in a disaster for the kid when he broke his leg around Christmas after just 44 games. That, according to Dupuis, was the obstacle that he had to overcome if he wanted to pursue hockey as a career.

It turns out, Calgary Flames scout Tom Thompson admired Dupuis' competitiveness and hockey sense and got him an invitation to the Flames 1997 training camp. But ...

"I was out of shape after the injury and I was not close to being strong enough to making it to the NHL at that time," he said. "But after seeing what I was facing in terms of talent in that camp, I said to myself, 'You can do this Pascal.' I proved to myself I could do it if I was healthy."

When Thompson joined the Minnesota Wild a couple of years later, he offered Dupuis a tryout with the Wild. This time, Pascal was coming off a 50-goal, 55-assist effort in 61 games for Shawinigan and he earned himself a contract. But there was one more problem.

While spending most of the 2000-01 season with Cleveland in the American Hockey League, the biggest obstacle was that this French-Canadian knew little English.

"It was tough. But I got a lot of help from Todd McLellan (who just happens to be an assistant coach with Pascal's opponents from Detroit right now). He was really good to me," Dupuis said. Then he added with a laugh, "The rest of the time it was 'yes,' 'no' and 'same thing.' "

Same thing?

"Yeah, you know we'd go out to eat and because I didn't know how to read the menu or say what I wanted to eat, I'd point to what someone else was having and say, 'Same thing.' " Dupuis continued. "Well, one day we went out and the guys. I pointed and said, 'Same thing.' It turns out, the guys got together all they all ordered sushi. I ate one spoonful and that was it. All the guys just sat there laughing at what they'd done to me."

Now, it's Pascal Dupuis who keeps the room alive.

Team guy? You bet. Character player? None better. Throw-in. Not on your life.

With Pascal Dupuis, you can point to the passion, the energy he brings, and watch him skate with Sidney Crosby and Marian Hossa.

And someone might point and say, "Same thing," because they are all the same kind of productive player.


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