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Ruhwedel keeps it simple as a steady member of Penguins' roster

by Mark Madden / 105.9 the X

"They also serve who only stand and wait." - John Milton.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel has been on the Penguins' roster all season, but didn't see action 'til Nov. 21.

When the Penguins are 100 percent healthy, Ruhwedel is an insurance policy.

But then the Penguins' injury list grew.

And grew.

And grew.

And grew.

So the 5-foot-11, 191-pounder stayed in the lineup. Ruhwedel has played 15 of the Pens' last 17 games, notching two goals, three assists and a plus-2 mark. Beyond numbers, Ruhwedel is steady. That's his primary job.

"I'm just keeping it simple, honestly," Ruhwedel said after the host Penguins beat Nashville, 6-4 on Dec. 28. "The team's playing really well. The forwards are doing a great job working with the D. We're battling hard, and getting some great goaltending, too. Everyone benefits when all those things are going on."

Ruhwedel, 29. is no stranger to the demands of part-time duty. That's been his lot since joining the Penguins for the 2016-17 campaign. He skated in six playoff games that season as the Pens won a second straight Stanley Cup.

Ruhwedel may not play for weeks at a time. But when the chance comes, he's ready.

"You need to get good reps in practice, and in the gym," Ruhwedel said. "Just try to stay focused with a positive attitude. That's the way to do it."

When Ruhwedel does crack the lineup, it doesn't take him long to find his form.

"It comes back after just a shift or two," he said. "We all know how to play.

"It's the same when guys come back from injury. It takes a shift or two. Hopefully, those go your way, and then you're right back into it."

Those who don't always dress still carry a heavy workload. Ruhwedel puts in extra work.

"Yeah, absolutely," he said. "A lot of time on the ice. Extra skates, all that kind of stuff."

When Ruhwedel doesn't play, he doesn't watch the game from the press box and eat popcorn. That's left to freeloaders.

"You work out [during the game]. It's not easy," Ruhwedel said. "It changes all the time, but it's a pretty tough workout. You're staying in shape and getting the cardio up to par so you're ready when you get a chance."

Ruhwedel isn't alone when it comes to stepping up for those injured.

Lately, Ruhwedel's defense partner has been Juuso Riikola, who faces a similar situation on the depth chart.

"It's been good," Ruhwedel said of the tandem. "We seem to be playing pretty well together. Keeping it simple and trying to help the team any way we can.

"A lot of guys are playing big minutes and big roles now. Not just guys who weren't in the lineup, but guys who are getting more and more ice time and stepping up big."

The Penguins seem to be coalescing into a very good team.

Perhaps that will give Ruhwedel a chance to complete unfinished business: Despite helping the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2017, the San Diego native didn't appear in enough playoff games to get his name on the trophy.

"I was actually a few games short," Ruhwedel said.

That's part of Ruhwedel's job description. But it's a job he does very well. The pay's pretty good, too.

Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).

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