Rob Scuderi, Kings have royal opportunity against Penguins
LOS ANGELES -- Rob Scuderi knows what his upstart Los Angeles Kings can gain tonight against the Penguins at Staples Center.
"Every team in the NHL is trying to be the Penguins; ultimately, you look at them and see what you can become," the Kings' defenseman said Wednesday of a showdown between his club - third in the Western Conference (9-4-2, 20 points) - and the Penguins, who are 7-0-0 on the road and own the NHL's best overall mark (12-3-0, 24 points).
"I'm looking forward to seeing how we respond."
So are many hockey observers that have compared these Kings to the 2006-07 Penguins that went from talked-about youngsters to playoff-bound Cup contenders.
Scuderi, nicknamed "The Piece" by Penguins teammates last season for his contributions to their Stanley Cup win, will surely alert his young Kings teammates - fueled by top-scoring center Anze Kopitar (11 goals, 24 points) - that one game against the champs does not make a successful season.
"But it's going to be our toughest test," he said. "I know those guys, and they don't make anything easy on opponents."
Under coach Dan Bylsma, who is 30-6-4 since replacing Michel Therrien last season, the Penguins have prided themselves this season on seizing the moment. They are 4-1-0 against teams that started yesterday at .500 or better and 7-1-0 against clubs that qualified for the playoffs last season.
"It just comes down to consistency and getting to your game," Penguins captain and center Sidney Crosby said yesterday after a practice that he and several teammates skipped in favor of off-ice workouts -- with Bylsma's blessing.
"Since Dan came, probably about a month in, we found our identity and were confident how we were going to win games. You need to have that. There are going to be times where you're going to have stints that are tough and you're not going to be playing good hockey - but you need to know where you need to be in order to be successful. We have that."
What the Penguins lack is a power play with any bite, at least in the six games missed by defenseman Sergei Gonchar (broken left wrist). The Penguins are 3 for 29 in those contests and 0 for 14 in the past three games.
Crosby suggested improved zone-entry would cure what ails the Penguins' power play.
So could facing the Kings, who as of yesterday rated 27th on the penalty kill at 74.5 percent despite the offseason signing of Scuderi - widely considered a top penalty-killing defenseman in the league.
For the Kings to continue gaining confidence necessary for a mostly inexperienced team to make the playoffs, Crosby knows what they have to do.
"You have to probably just beat some good hockey teams," he said. "Some teams that maybe in the past you might go into the game you just want to find a way to survive and maybe squeeze a win out," he said. "I'm sure that's probably maybe creeping into their minds. Beating good hockey teams builds confidence."
Scuderi expects to feel strange playing Pens
LOS ANGELES ---- Defenseman Rob Scuderi will face the Penguins tonight for the first time since signing a free--agent contract with the Los Angeles Kings last summer. On Wednesday, Scuderi shared his thoughts with the Tribune--Review's Rob Rossi:
What do you expect to be thinking during the warm--ups tonight?
I'm sure it's going to be a strange experience. Since there was no negative energy surrounding my departure, I don't think that will be a part of the game. I'm not out to prove a point, I just want win a game for my team.
Does your team remind you of any your old Penguins clubs?
There are a lot of similarities to that 06--07 year because back then we were a young group that had started to realize we could do better things. Guys being together on a team for a couple of years that hasn't done so well, you see when they start to believe it's time for that next step. I've seen that here.
What does it feel like to be a veteran leader for young players?
Here, with all those young guys, you can't be afraid to say something -- and I'm not a rah--rah guy. But these players have an open mind to listen. Most likely they need to hear what I have to say, so I've got to talk more.
How good is center Anze Kopitar?
In some ways he reminds me a lot of Sidney (Crosby) because he wants to make a play or score every time he's on the ice, even in practice. Anze might slash your stick if you deny him during practices, but he'll laugh about it with you later. That's Sid--like right there.
How has your adjustment to new surroundings gone?
Well, I'll never get used to people watching football games in a bar at 10 a.m., but I'm almost there hockey--wise. Once camp started it all hit me -- new teammates, a new system. There are still times when I'm thinking too much, but I'm close.
So, "The Piece" is nearly in place?
I thought that would be just a Pittsburgh thing, but as soon as I came here somebody had made a jersey that read "The Piece" on the front. Word travels far, I guess.