– While waiting for an opportunity to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Pittsburgh defenseman Darryl Sydor never stopped training hard.
As one of the Penguins' black aces, Sydor skated hard every morning and usually an hour longer than the regulars. He ran the steps in the various arenas Pittsburgh has played in during its playoff run. And, all the while he never pouted and never spoke out to the media about his displeasure.
Sydor will be rewarded for his patience and understanding tonight when he is inserted into the lineup for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at Mellon Arena (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio). Sydor will replace rookie defenseman Kris Letang
and will play left defense next to Ryan Whitney.
"I just have been preparing because you never know what is going to happen with anything," Sydor said. "I prepared myself because there might be an opportunity in these playoffs and it just so happens that it's now rather than earlier."
Penguins coach Michel Therrien said he had no reason to change up his defense in the previous three rounds because the team was winning. But now that they're down 0-2 against the Detroit Red Wings, Therrien feels adding Sydor's experience will help his team find that winning touch again.
Sydor is a 16-year veteran who has won the Stanley Cup twice (1999 with Dallas and 2004 with Tampa Bay). This will be his fifth appearance in the Stanley Cup Final as he also played in it with Los Angeles in 1993 and Dallas in 2000.
"Darryl had a great season for us, but in the meantime we have a lot of depth in defensemen and we liked what we saw from our defensemen so we didn't have any reason why to change our defensemen," Therrien said. "It's a different story right now and certainly we could use some experience on the ice and on the bench. He'll communicate really well with the players so I'm excited for him to finally get a chance to play in the playoffs."
Sydor admitted that it will probably take a few shifts for him to get acclimated to the pace of the game again. He hasn't played in a game since March 31.
"I'm not going to beat around the bush. You can't just jump right into it, but one of the things I can say is I've been there before," Sydor said. "I've been to the Final and I understand how the levels of hockey pick up each round. We have tried to do that with the way we've been skating, just keep climbing that mountain until the end."
As Sydor was telling reporters he was going in, Letang, whose locker stall is only a few feet away, was telling other members of the media that he had no idea who would be going out because Therrien did not put a lineup on the board this morning.
Therrien announced during his press conference that Letang would be coming out.
"If we have to change something we're going to change something," Letang said.
The Penguins seem happy with the change because they know the experience they're adding with Sydor. In 151 playoff games he has nine goals and 47 assists. In 1,171 regular season games Sydor has 95 goals and 389 assists.
He had one goal and 12 assists in 74 games this season, his first in Pittsburgh.
"He's going to bring a lot of experience, especially in big games like this," Sidney Crosby
said. "He's won two Stanley Cups. He'll bring a sense of calm to our room and on the ice as a guy that is going to make the simple plays and manage the puck well."
Added defenseman Hal Gill: "He's been working really hard, harder than I have seen anyone work. He's ready for this. He's been chomping at the bit to get into the lineup. We're going to get new blood and leadership into the lineup."
Gill said that he has spent a time talking to Sydor about different situations throughout the playoffs. Sydor has been very helpful, and he told NHL.com during the Eastern Conference Final that it's the proper way to handle his unpleasant situation.
"You always wonder, but you have to stay positive for your teammates, and that's what I did," Sydor said. "Just be a positive leader obviously off the ice and work hard for if you ever get the opportunity."
Sydor said he won't have any problems getting into game mode.
"I watch the games like I'm playing the game and I watch them by myself because I get a little too excited," he said. "At the end of the day I know I can still play this game at a high level and now I have an opportunity to prove it." Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com
Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Staff Writer