Penguins to fill Dupuis' void by committee
DENVER — Winger David Perron intends to tell Pascal Dupuis what he means to him, thank him for all he's done, some day soon.
Perron will recall how he felt welcomed when Dupuis showed up at the rink on an off day to greet him the day after Perron was traded to the Penguins last January. He'll remind Dupuis that it took him all of two minutes to start ribbing him — chirping him, in hockey parlance — once he set foot in the locker room.
He'll tell Dupuis he wished he could have played with him longer and won a championship with him like some in the Penguins locker room did.
He's going to give it a little bit of time, though.
“It's tough to say it in person. It makes you emotional,” Perron said. “I'm going to give him some time. He was getting crushed with so many messages and calls yesterday.
“His phone, every two seconds, it was something coming in, whether it was a phone call from an ex-coach or a player he played with. It was amazing to see the support for him.”
While Perron has some time to come to grips with Dupuis' announcement Tuesday that his career is over because of a blood-clotting condition, the Penguins had no such luxury when it came to replacing Dupuis on the ice.
A little more than 24 hours after his announcement, they took on the Colorado Avalanche.
Dupuis had two goals and two assists in 18 games this season, so replacing his offensive production won't be the hard part. Replacing his contribution on the penalty kill will be.
The Penguins have been leaning on four forwards — Dupuis, Matt Cullen, Eric Fehr and Nick Bonino — to kill penalties.
Replacing Dupuis means replacing almost one-fourth of the team's short-handed shifts up front.
Coach Mike Johnston said the Penguins occasionally have been adding players to the mix — Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz and Sergei Plotnikov to name four — and they will continue to do so.
“It's a huge hole,” Cullen said. “He brings so much speed and energy. He's a perfect penalty killer. Someone's going to have to step in.”
Dupuis' speed and energy will be difficult to replace at even strength as well.
Because he was known as a character player, some of Dupuis' on-ice skills occasionally were overlooked. Well into his 30s, he played with a pace and energy that most younger players cannot match.
For all their skill, the Penguins don't have an overabundance of speed on the roster beyond Crosby, Malkin and Phil Kessel.
Dupuis' speed was a big reason he so frequently ended up on Crosby's right wing despite multiple personnel moves over the years. Finding a replacement who complements Crosby's game won't be easy. Beau Bennett will get the first crack.
In retrospect, Crosby said he's glad he got to skate with his old linemates, Dupuis and Kunitz, for a couple of periods Dec. 1 in San Jose before Tuesday's announcement.
“You don't necessarily know that at the time,” Crosby said, “but I think looking back on all the times we have played together, to get that opportunity, yeah, I think it was nice and probably fitting.”