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'Throw-in' Dupuis' versatility makes him invaluable

by Alan Robinson
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins' mega-deal to land star forward Marian Hossa in 2008 is considered to be one of the best trade deadline maneuvers pulled off by any team in recent years.
It's not just because Hossa helped lead Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup Final that season. It's more about the so-called "other guy" the Penguins acquired.
"I was supposed to be the throw-in in the Marian Hossa deal," Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis said. "That was funny to me. I'm still here, playing my game."
As it turns out, Penguins general manager Ray Shero's most-remembered trade would be considered a success even if Hossa hadn't contributed the way he did, meshing with linemate Sidney Crosby to lead a long playoff run before signing with Detroit only weeks later.


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Dupuis, a barely-mentioned piece when the deal with Atlanta (now Winnipeg) was made, has turned out to be one of those rare players who finds a perfect fit with a franchise long after his career has begun.
While the other NHL players involved in the deal, Erik Christensen and Colby Armstrong, are long gone from the Thrashers/Jets and prospect Angelo Esposito has yet to play in the League, Dupuis is proving to be a true steal for his fourth NHL team.
Because his speed and physicality enable him to play multiple roles. Dupuis is equally productive whether he's playing on Jordan Staal's defense-first shutdown line or Crosby's high-production scoring line. Nine years after he set his previous career high with 48 points for Minnesota, Dupuis has 24 goals and 30 assists for 54 points in 78 games.
To put that into perspective, Dupuis has the same number of points as the much higher-profile Jaromir Jagr has for Philadelphia, and he has outscored Alexander Semin and Dany Heatley, among others.
Despite shuffling recently between the Staal and Crosby lines, Dupuis takes a 13-game point-scoring streak (9 goals, 8 assists) -- the longest in the NHL this season -- into the Penguins' home game against Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC).
What a season by a player who, when he first joined the Penguins, often played on the fourth line or was a healthy scratch.
"It's always fun to be part of the offense," said Dupuis, whose previous career high was 20 goals with Minnesota in 2002-03. "It's been a team effort, but right now they're going in for me."
Dupuis has bounced back from a midseason slump in which he went 17 games without a goal to pile up 12 goals in Pittsburgh's last 21 games. Unlike many scorers who generate a healthy percentage of their offense on the power play, Dupuis had only one power-play point all season. But he has three shorthanded goals and eight game-winners.

"I was supposed to be the throw-in in the Marian Hossa deal. That was funny to me. I'm still here, playing my game."
-- Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis

"I've never put a point total on Pascal Dupuis," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "It's rewarding him to see him score goals, get points. Eight game-winning goals are a career, let alone one season."
Dupuis admittedly is shooting more this season -- this is the first time he has exceeded 200 shots -- but otherwise his game hasn't changed much. He plays with exceptional speed and persistence, just as he did while helping Crosby to what was becoming a career year -- Crosby had 32 goals and 66 points in 41 games -- until a midseason concussion shut down Pittsburgh's superstar for the rest of the 2010-11 season.
But even in a hockey-savvy city such as Pittsburgh, where role player Maxime Talbot was so popular that he bragged of getting the "superstar treatment" in a local car dealership commercial, Dupuis has no such ad or highly visible off-ice role.
To his teammates, he's the dependable, can-do-it-all player they call "Duper," one who seems as comfortable streaking down the wing on Crosby's line as he is backchecking on one of the NHL's best penalty-killing units.
"He's a physical player," Bylsma said. "He leads our forecheck. He gets three, four, five hits a night. He goes into tough areas to score goals. He's a good penalty-killer."
When Crosby returned from his 40-game injury layoff two weeks ago, Bylsma initially kept Dupuis on a line with Staal and Steve Sullivan; that line produced 15 goals during a recent 11-game winning streak. But on Thursday, Bylsma reinstalled Dupuis and Chris Kunitz on Crosby's line.
"You play with Sid, you play with Jordan, you play with Evgeni (Malkin), you play with a great player," Dupuis said. "You play with a great centerman. When you play on this team, you play with unbelievable talent. It's a matter of clicking together."
That hasn't been much of a problem for Dupuis, who seems to fit in naturally with almost everyone.
"Obviously, I've found my home here in Pittsburgh," said Dupuis, a native of Laval, Que., who turns 33 on April 7. "It's been good for me."
Especially for a throw-in.
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