WOODRIDGE, Ill. --
Team USA hopefuls Brooks Orpik
and Rob Scuderi
are no strangers to championship celebrations.
The gritty defensive pair shared an NCAA championship at Boston College in 2001 and also manned the blue line for the Pittsburgh Penguins
during their Stanley Cup run just three months ago.
Now, they're eyeing a roster spot on Team USA for the 2010 Winter Olympics in February. Is an Olympic gold medal next in their future?
"It's been great being his teammate for the last 10 or so years, and we've been through a lot of stuff together," Scuderi said. "We even played in the American League (for three seasons with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton). But this would be just one more thing that would be pretty cool to do. I respect him as a player and even more as a person and friend, so to be able to share some great career moments would be something special."
It could be their final shot at playing together. Scuderi signed a four-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings
in July following four productive seasons with the Penguins.
"It's strange because you win a championship and, three weeks later, I'm somewhere else," Scuderi said.
The 30-year-old defenseman, who used his time at Team USA's camp to get acquainted with new Kings teammates Jack Johnson
, Dustin Brown
and Jonathan Quick
, established career highs in assists (15), points (16) and plus/minus rating (plus-23) last season. He was also 12th in the League with 164 blocked shots.
"I think we began taking for granted how lucky we were playing for so long together, but we've obviously developed a good friendship and my girlfriend and his wife are pretty close," Orpik told NHL.com. "It was tough to see him go to L.A., but that's what makes these national camps so special -- you get to meet a lot of guys that have gone in other directions with the pro teams."
Scuderi is best remembered for the play he made in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final when he denied Detroit Red Wings
forward Johan Franzen
on a pair of shots late in the third period of an eventual 2-1 victory.
"To this day, I still don't know why he was in that position -- but thankfully he was," Orpik said. "But that's the type of player Rob is. He never really does one particular thing that stands out and unless you watch him for quite a while can you appreciate what he does. I think he likes it that way."
Born in Syosset, N.Y., Scuderi is the first Long Island native to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.
"I had my day with the Cup on July 17," Scuderi said. "My dad was a Syosset police officer, so I took the Cup to his department and then to my mother's high school where she's been teaching for over 10 years. I also brought it to the local rink where I played and then took it to the beach for the rest of the day. It was fun to share it with the community since not a lot of kids make it to the NHL from that area."
Orpik, born in San Francisco but now residing in Cohasset, Mass., has spent five full seasons with the Penguins. He was second among Pens defensemen in assists (17), third in plus/minus (plus-10) and was tied for third in points (19) in 79 regular-season games. His 309 hits last season ranked second in the NHL and first among defensemen.
"Brooks has a unique combination that everyone looks for," Scuderi said. "He's got size, but he's also a very fluid skater who can move. He's a scary guy to play against if you're trying to cut up the middle of the ice. If there's one thing that's going to stick out to me, it's his physical play and presence."
Orpik, 28, spent July 19 with the Cup, his girlfriend and plenty of locals on the beach in Cohasset. He also arranged a charity event at Boston College at which fans could have pictures taken with the Cup with all proceeds benefiting the Boys and Girls Club of America.
"We had the Cup until midnight, and it was nice to get it over the weekend," Orpik told NHL.com. "We did a lot with it considering we only had seven days' notice, but the day went by so quick and then it was Jordan Staal
's turn to get it. I'm just glad we had great weather that day because it had been raining so much the previous few days in Boston."
When Scuderi was asked how he'd feel if he was cut from the final roster and Orpik was not, he never wavered in his response.
"People used to ask the same thing when we were in college and then drafted by Pittsburgh," Scuderi said. "I told them, 'Well, maybe we can just be partners.' If Brooks made the team and I didn't, I'd be happy for him because I think of him more as a friend than as a teammate."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com