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Scuderi Remains Strong On Defense

by Joe Sager / Pittsburgh Penguins

Rob Scuderi is easy to overlook on the ice.

He likes it that way, though.

Because, if you notice him, that usually means an opponent has a good scoring chance or the puck is in the net.

That’s no knock on the Penguins defenseman. It’s just a tribute to the workmanlike approach he brings to the Pittsburgh blue line.

“I am used to not getting a lot of attention and that’s OK,” he said. “Most of the guys in the locker room always appreciate what you do anyway. It’s never a big deal.

“That’s always been the way my career has been, even when I got to college. After the games, you almost don’t notice that I played, but I made a couple of good breakout passes and kept things simple and that’s just the way I have been playing for a while now.”

In his fourth NHL season, Scuderi is quick to tell you what he is not.

“I am not going to make a lot of flashy plays and certainly not going to do anything fancy,” he said. “I just stay the same. You can pretty much count on me to do the same thing every night.

“We have a bunch of different types of defensemen here. We have some offensive guys and Brooks Orpik is a big hitter. Everyone adds their own little piece to the puzzle. I have always been a steady guy and that’s what I bring to the team.”

What Scuderi is – a shutdown defenseman – has more value to the team as a whole.

“I have known Scuderi for a long time. I coached him in the minors. He got that role when he was in Wilkes-Barre,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “Last year, he learned a lot. He’s a good stay-at-home defenseman. He has a really good stick. His lateral movement is so good. He won’t take any chances. He’s a guy that you don’t see on the ice. When you see him on the ice, it’s because he made a mistake. He’s always going to make the percentage play.

“Hopefully, I won’t continue to see him,” he added with a laugh.

Scuderi, who played with Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik when both attended Boston College, has gained a little more visibility this season. After Mark Eaton went on injured reserve with a knee injury, Scuderi was moved to the Penguins’ top defensive pairing alongside Sergei Gonchar. The results have been very good for the team.

“Sarge is real good. The first few games we were paired together, we had to talk it out and figure out some things like tendencies that each of us like to do,” Scuderi said. “Once we got past that, I think we have been a pretty solid pair. If we keep working and communicating, hopefully it will continue.”

Gonchar, in his third season in Pittsburgh, has been impressed with Scuderi’s development since he became a regular in the Penguins’ lineup in 2005-06.

“I liked him since Day 1. He skates really well and is a very smart player. He is always in a good position. He plays very, very well,” Gonchar said. “When he got here, it took him some time to get adjusted to the speed of the NHL and to his partners and to the higher level of talent in the league compared to what he saw in Wilkes-Barre. It took him a while, but he’s comfortable and that’s probably why he is playing so good.

“You can see he is making progress. Since the beginning of the year, he is playing much better,” he continued. “He is doing a lot of little things that people don’t pay attention to. He is playing against a team’s top line and he does a very good job. He’s probably playing the best hockey I’ve seen him play.

“He keeps it simple. That’s his job, nothing flashy. But, in my opinion, that’s what a good defenseman is about. It’s not easy today in the NHL because there is so much talent on the first and second lines. He is playing against them and doing very well.”

The 29-year-old New York native believes his game continues to improve with each year in the NHL.

“You always get a little more confidence. You feel like you improve just that much more your next year,” he said. “The only reason I have made it to this level is because each year I have just gotten a little bit better – not leaps and bounds, but just a little better each year. I expect from myself to be a little better next year. That’s just something that you come to practice every day for – to get a little better. To me, it doesn’t feel like I am doing anything different, but maybe you just see another year of experience and confidence coming through out on the ice.”

Scuderi never expected to find himself on the Penguins’ top defensive unit, but is happy to get the opportunity.

“If Mark wasn’t hurt, I am sure he and Sarge would be playing together. But, sometimes injuries happen and I am happy that I could kind of step in and do a good job,” he said. “I don’t really feel like I’ve done anything different this year. It was just like in college, I don’t think anybody noticed me until my junior year. You’ve been around a while and people watch you, but they don’t really watch you. If they do really watch you for a little bit, they say, ‘Hey, he does a pretty good job.’ That’s always how my career has been.”

Scuderi’s play has been a key for the Penguins’ defense, which continues to improve as the season unfolds.

“It’s been great. The defense can’t take all the credit. It’s a team concept,” he said. “The forwards are coming back. We haven’t given up a whole lot of chances and, obviously, our goaltending has been very good. Ty, Sabou and Flower have been there for us this season.

“It’s always fun when you’re winning. We want to keep that going.”

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