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Penguins' Scuderi remains confident despite criticism

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi has been criticized for his underwhelming performance during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Coach, Dan Bylsma said he thinks that perception is unfair.

Scuderi is a minus-3 through 11 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which ranks last among Pittsburgh defensemen. The two-time Stanley Cup champion has struggled since returning in December from a broken leg that sidelined him for two months.

That continued Friday, when Scuderi made a miscue that led to one of the New York Rangers' two power-play goals during Pittsburgh's 5-1 loss in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series.

Game 6 of the best-of-7 series, which Pittsburgh leads 3-2, is Sunday at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

Bylsma said Scuderi does not receive the credit he deserves because he is not a high-octane offensive performer.

"He's a fairly unassuming defenseman in how he plays," Bylsma said of Scuderi. "He's a guy who defends and is always thinking defense. The PK is a big part of that. We had some unforced errors and that was one of them. You don't get it cleared, it's in the back of the net a few seconds later.

"That's not the only mistake in the game. But I think Rob's played some of his best hockey for us in these playoffs."

The 35-year-old was Pittsburgh's primary shutdown defender during its 2009 Stanley Cup run. He was expected to bring that same level of defensive dominance when he returned to Pittsburgh last summer after four seasons with the Los Angeles Kings.

Due to injuries throughout the Penguins lineup, Scuderi rarely played alongside planned partner Kris Letang during the regular season. That led to a lack of chemistry between the two that was evident early in Pittsburgh's Eastern Conference First Round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, which the Penguins won in six games.

Letang has played noticeably better since being paired with defenseman Paul Martin following defenseman Brooks Orpik's undisclosed injury.

Scuderi said he doesn't feel like he has underperformed.

"I feel good," Scuderi said. "Maybe sometimes the plays don't happen the way that you want them. It's something where you try to press or you try to force plays, that's not the type of guy I am. You just try to get in the right position and if things happen, things happen. I don't feel any different or feel like I'm doing anything different."

Scuderi has been paired with defenseman Robert Bortuzzo in six of his past seven games. Scuderi has played alongside Letang and Orpik through the first two playoff rounds and said the lack of consistency might have made it difficult to adjust.

"I think with all the injuries and all the pairings shifting around, it's been a little bit different for me, as far as a role," Scuderi said. "But you're still trying to do your job every time you go on the ice. Not letting the other team score, move the puck, try not to have big scoring chances against."

Scuderi said he doesn't expect the criticism to affect his performance in any way.

"I don't really worry about that stuff," he said. "Certainly, you want to be playing well. You want to be on top of your game, but I don't worry about outside influences that much. I just try to do what I know has worked for me in the past and what I think will continue to bring me success in the future."

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