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"The Piece" Returns

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins’ goal every season is to win the Stanley Cup. And at the opening bell of NHL free agency, they may have added “The Piece” to achieve that goal.

Pittsburgh brought back a key member of its 2009 championship team by signing defenseman Rob Scuderi to a four-year, $13.5 million contract with an average annual value of $3.375 million on Friday afternoon.

“Some teams called and Pittsburgh was one of them,” Scuderi said. “It piqued my interest because I have a familiarity with the area, the coaching staff, the management. With my family I thought it would be an easier transition because of the familiarity.

“Most importantly, the team is in a win-now mode.”

Scuderi, 34, will bring a defensively responsible presence to the Penguins’ blue line. He has always been a steady, stay-at-home type of player, and that hasn’t changed.

“I’m still a plug,” he said. “I’m going to play good defense. I’ll move the puck tape-to-tape when I can. When I don’t have that opportunity I’ll put the puck in a safe area. It’s not the prettiest game in the world. Everyone knows that, but it can be effective. One reason I’m comfortable coming back was the Penguins said that’s what they’re looking for. I just want to make sure I’m a good fit for what they need, and together we can do some good things.”

Scuderi was jokingly nicknamed “The Piece” by his Penguin teammates after he accidentally referred to himself as “the piece” instead of “a piece” to their championship team in an interview.

“I tried to exnay that when I left Pittsburgh,” he said. “I’m not embarrassed by it. It was something funny that followed me. I’ve heard a couple people mention it, but it was more prevalent in Pittsburgh.”

While it was a mistake by Scuderi, maybe, just maybe, he was onto something.

After all, the last time Scuderi was in a Penguins uniform he was hoisting the Stanley Cup above his head. That summer he signed with the Los Angeles Kings as a free agent and won the Cup again in 2012. (He also won the NCAA national title with Boston College in 2001, so he has been a winner throughout his hockey career).

Even if Scuderi wasn’t the piece to the Penguins’ Stanley Cup title in ’09, he certainly was a key piece. Scuderi paired with fellow blueliner Hal Gill to form the team’s shutdown defensive pairing.

Throughout the postseason, Scuderi and Gill faced the top offensive threats from Philadelphia, Washington, Carolina and Detroit with the unenviable task of shutting them down. And they achieved that task.

Scuderi’s most memorable moment with the Penguins occurred in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Red Wings. The Penguins needed to win the contest to force a Game 7 in Detroit.

Pittsburgh was clinging to a 2-1 lead in the final minute of play. During a scrum around the Penguins net, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was down and out. Scuderi dropped down on one leg and made TWO goal-saving stops on Johan Franzen with 15 seconds left to preserve the lead and victory.

“For a while I thought I blacked out and came to and we still had the lead,” Scuderi joked. “I remember the play. Like any player, you just want to put yourself in the right place and try to help the team out the best you can.”

Scuderi was a homegrown product in the Penguins organization. Pittsburgh drafted him in the fifth round (134th overall) in the 1998 NHL Draft out of Boston College. He played all four collegiate seasons at BC and four years in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before becoming a full-time NHL blueliner.

In all, Scuderi spent eight years in the Penguins’ organization. Even when he left for Los Angeles, in many ways his heart never left Pittsburgh.

“I’ve heard from (Sidney) Crosby and (Brooks) Orpik and other guys,” Scuderi said. “I appreciate all those welcome back texts and phone calls. I think that’s the family part of the team and that’s a very positive thing.”

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