-- Pittsburgh Penguins
defenseman Rob Scuderi
has possibly the toughest assignment in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Washington Capitals
Scuderi, along with defense partner Hal Gill
, have the unenviable task of trying to guard Capitals superstar forward Alexander Ovechkin.
Ovechkin has 7 goals and 10 points in the first six games of the series, but it's still fair to say that the pair has done a solid job limiting No. 8. Outside of his Game 2 hat trick, Ovechkin has just 4 goals, including one in the three games at Mellon Arena.
"It's a tall order they've been given, Gill and Scuderi," said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma
. "They're out there against talented players, great one-on-one players who can do it a number of different ways. That's a challenge focus-wise, it's a challenge skating-wise against those players and they've done a great job."
Maybe Scuderi has been watching those great offensive talents, because the defensive-minded defenseman came millimeters from becoming the offensive hero in Game 6 Monday night. With an open look 4:04 into overtime, Scuderi's long shot hit the crossbar.
"Was kind of end-over-end, kind of a knucklepuck," said Scuderi. "I thought I got pretty good wood on it, but it wasn't meant to be.
"Would have been nice to bury the winner there and finish off the series, but maybe I'll get a chance in Game 7."
It would have been more surprising if Scuderi had scored the winner. He has 1 goal in the playoffs, but he had just 1 goal in 81 games in the regular season, and has just 3 tallies in 300 career NHL games.
In other words, don't look for him on the point on the power play any time soon.
More likely, it'll be up to Scuderi to prevent Ovechkin from getting the winner in Game 7 on Wednesday.
"We've done a good job against him," said Scuderi. "I don't know what his stats read like tonight (3 assists, five shots), but we tried to keep him to a minimal factor tonight as much as we could."
It isn't easy, thanks to the wealth of Ovechkin's skills. Through six games, Scuderi has tried to get a read on what the Russian superstar might do, but his talent and creativity almost makes it impossible to predict what he'll do.
"You start to get a feel for his speed," said Scuderi. "Against a guy like that, you can't assume anything because he's a world-class talent and he can do something different every time he comes down the ice. As far as his speed, I've been able to match that, to gauge that, to be where I have to be, but as far as each time he comes down the ice, you have to play with a clean slate otherwise he can make you look pretty stupid."
He hasn't looked out of place at any point, and Bylsma has no reason to think that will change in Game 7.
"Rob has done an outstanding job with his assignment," said Bylsma, "and he's going to get one more chance in Game 7."
Contact Adam Kimelman at: email@example.com.