EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- When the Pittsburgh Penguins took the ice at the Los Angeles Kings' practice facility, some of Rob Scuderi's teammates asked him about the enlarged photo that hangs on the wall between the benches.
It's the team photo taken after Scuderi and the Kings won the 2012 Stanley Cup, and Craig Adams seemed to be giving Scuderi a hard time about his inconspicuousness because Scuderi is barely visible in the back.
"I think they were asking me why I wasn't a little closer to the Cup," Scuderi said. "I'm more of a back-row guy so I was kind of tucked away in the back. I'm still in there."
That really sums up Scuderi's four-season stint in Los Angeles, where his stability and leadership weren't necessarily front and center but absolutely were integral to the Kings capturing the first Cup in franchise history.
Defense - PIT
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 2
SOG: 16 | +/-: 0
On Thursday, Scuderi will play his former team for the first time since he left L.A. and signed a four-year deal in July 2013 to return to Pittsburgh. It's a rare visit to Staples Center for the Penguins and Sidney Crosby
, who will play here for the first time since Nov. 5, 2009.
But it's certainly not strange surroundings for Scuderi, who joked that "I went to park in my normal spot and someone was in it," when the team practiced at the Kings' facility Wednesday.
Scuderi, 35, has picked up where he left off after starting his NHL career with the Penguins. But he reiterated it was a difficult decision to leave Los Angeles, where he was settled in Manhattan Beach with his wife and kids, ages 8, 6 and 2. Scuderi grew up on Long Island and cited being closer to his family for returning East.
"Being honest, when I gave my interviews after my decision, I was torn to leave here," he said. "When I first came out it feels a little bit awkward and then after four years it's home. It's tough to leave a place where everyone has treated you very well. But it happens."
Scuderi's veteran presence was invaluable to the Kings' young defensemen. He was paired with Drew Doughty during the Cup season and also served as a mentor to Slava Voynov and Jake Muzzin.
Scuderi always will be remembered by Kings fans for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final when he was the victim of a nasty five-minute boarding penalty by Steve Bernier of the New Jersey Devils that allowed L.A. to score three power-play goals on its way to a 6-1 Cup-clinching win.
Talk to Scuderi's former teammates and what stands out is his value in the dressing room, where he could give some veteran words or add a light touch.
"[Scuderi] was huge for me," Doughty said. "Him and I, as a pair, we just jelled together so well … I never had so much fun playing … we liked to mess around a little bit in practice. We had this serious side too. Even in games sometimes, if the other guy made a horribly bad play, instead of, at times, yelling at each other about it, we would kind of laugh it off. I had so much fun with him on the ice, off the ice. I loved going to dinner with him. He's a great pro and he's a great person. I really miss him around here, for sure."
"I think they were asking me why I wasn't a little closer to the Cup. I'm more of a back-row guy so I was kind of tucked away in the back. I'm still in there."
-- Penguins D Rob Scuderi on a picture of him winning the Stanley Cup with Los Angeles
Local media miss Scuderi as well because he was particularly candid and thoughtful in his last season with the Kings and took on a captain-like role in explaining losses and bad stretches. Scuderi didn't wear the captain's 'C' with the Kings and doesn't with the Penguins, but his leadership goes a long way with Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby and other veterans.
"He's comfortable," Crosby said. "For a new guy usually it takes a little bit of time to feel comfortable. I think his experience shows right away when he comes here. He's been a good voice to have back in the dressing room and I think the experience on the ice, even with his injury, I think he keeps the game real simple and shows a lot of poise back there."
Scuderi's season was interrupted by a broken ankle sustained Oct. 26 that ended his streak of 276 consecutive games played. His no-flash style has given him a plus or even rating in 16 of 24 games this season.
Scuderi's next game will be against some of those same young defensemen he mentored.
"I'm hoping I can get him 1-on-1 because I know his weakness," Doughty joked.
Does Scuderi know what Doughty is talking about?
"Probably ice cream," Scuderi said. "That's my definite weakness."
Scuderi seriously looked forward to saying hello to some friends in pre-game warm-ups or maybe after the game. The Penguins are staging their mother's trip, and Scuderi's mom is on hand for games against L.A. and the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday. It's all good times in his L.A. homecoming.
"It's a nice feeling to come back," he said. "We had a great four years here. I did. We won a Stanley Cup championship, conference final. A very successful four years.
"I don't come back with bitter feelings or feelings of regret or feelings that we didn't accomplish something that we wanted to. It's more of good memories and good friends that I've had here. I'm on a different team now. The memories you take with you."