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Retired Dupuis finds ways to help Penguins on Cup run

Recurring blood clots ended 37-year-old forward's career in December

by Amalie Benjamin @amaliebenjamin / Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- The name remains on the roster, the two asterisks like two daggers to the heart.

Although Pascal Dupuis appears to have made his peace with where he is -- in the stands, in a suit -- his transition is not quite fully complete. Those asterisks indicate that Dupuis is on injured reserve, presumably for the remainder of his time under contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

So he is on the roster, but not really; a part of the team, but not really.

Those days are done.

They were ripped from him, as the ligaments in his knee shredded, as that led to a blood clot and blood thinners and a brief return this season that lasted all of 18 games. It would go no further. And so, on Dec. 8, he announced that he would no longer play the game that he breathed and loved, the way he made his living. His health, finally, was too important to sacrifice. His family had to come first.

Video: Dupuis discusses Penguins' core, Crosby

And so there he was, Dupuis' 10-year old son, Kody, sitting off to his father's left on the podium Sunday at Media Day, ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the San Jose Sharks at Consol Engery Center on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

His father detailed his struggles, his triumphs, the roller coaster that has been the last couple of years, all while Kody sat there, swinging his legs, all innocence and reason to retire in one compact package. Dupuis has three more, three girls, and gray creeping into his beard.

Around him is the swirl of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a room filled with noise and teammates and questions, with cameras and microphones. Dupuis is on the edge of the madness, in Pod No. 8, perhaps rightly placed.

"I feel like I'm in it completely, as far as being in it, yes," Dupuis said. "But it's a different side of it than I'm used to, obviously. I've been through this a couple times as a player, and still the title beside my name is 'player,' but I don't feel like it now. No, it's completely different."

This time he has no real influence, no on-ice impact on his team's ability to win the Cup. There are more nerves this way, more anticipation. Because he cares just as much, for his teammates, for himself, for his organization, where the 37-year-old has spent the past nine years.

"I want them to win and I want to win too, so whatever I can do to help, that's pretty much my title or my role now," Dupuis said. "Whatever is needed for me to do. Like, I need to put a butt end on Eric Fehr's stick Game 6 in Tampa Bay, I did it between periods. Whatever they need me to do, I'll do."

Video: Chatting with Pascal Dupuis about life beyond the NHL

Whether it's taping sticks or making sure that everyone feels welcome.

"He's not a guy that sulks on it, doesn't show regret. He comes to the rink, he still works out hard, he still gives us insight," former linemate Chris Kunitz said. "He's on the plane, he's on the buses. He keeps the team loose just like he did when he played.

"He was the guy that always organized dinners and made sure we were a group and a family and on the road always included people, so I think he's still done a great job of doing that. He's just doing it maybe a little farther away from the group than usual."

And although that might be healthy for a guy who is suffering through the premature ending of his career, it is not always the easiest situation for Dupuis. Asked if he has any pangs, given where his team has gone this season, Dupuis admitted, "Oh, every day. Every day I'm thinking about it.

"Even more so when you have a guy that's in the situation I was in, in [the Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven] Stamkos, comes back and plays a Game 7 in the conference final, the thought comes to you quick."

The two had a long conversation after Game 3 in Tampa, talking about what Stamkos had gone through with his own blood clot, leading to his return in the series. They talked about his future.

It's a situation that Dupuis knows all too well. It all started with the knee injury in December 2013, ending that season early, then the blood clot in his lung that was discovered that January. Then, after rehabbing all season, all summer, he started 2014-2015 ready to leave his health issues behind.

The blood clots returned. His season ended.

Dupuis returned, again. But on Dec. 8, he declared his career over. That was one week after he felt chest pains in a game in San Jose, similar to the ones he had felt when he previously was diagnosed with blood clots. He exited the game after two periods. He did not return.

And, yet, he hasn't gone anywhere. Not really.

He left his skates and his equipment in his garage in Montreal. He couldn't face it, at least not for a while. The equipment migrated back to Pittsburgh, though, because, as Dupuis said, "I just couldn't kick the habit of going on the ice. I miss it too much."

So he skates by himself, early in the morning, unable to let go. He is not a player anymore. And yet, he keeps a stall in the Penguins dressing room, still works out when they do. He's still around the team -- his team -- even as it is unimaginably difficult. It is hard to be here. It is harder not to be here.

He is asked if his name will go on the Cup, if the Penguins are lucky enough to win it.

"I hope so," he said, turning to look at a bigger-than-life-size poster of the Cup hanging behind him. "But I don't know. I don't know. It's on there somewhere. It's there already, but hopefully it'll be there again."

He might not be playing, might not be lacing up his skates or donning a jersey, but that hope hasn't died. It never does: One more run, one more name, one more Cup, whether you're a player, a coach, or in an unfortunate limbo somewhere in between.

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