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The Other Guy

His agent didn’t contact him before the trade deadline. His coach never called him and his general manager didn’t text him. It was a broadcaster who broke the news to the Atlanta Thrashers winger.

On television. As an afterthought: Marian Hossa is a Pittsburgh Penguin.

Pause.

Oh, and Pascal Dupuis is going with him.

For Dupuis, being an afterthought is just fine now. The 34-year-old Penguin skates alongside the league’s top superstar and is closing in on 100 goals with the organization. He’s scored more goals this season than eight of the ten active Rocket Richard winners and is a staple on the team’s penalty kill.

The reason for his success is simple.

“It’s clicking right now,” Dupuis said. “When you play with great players like we have and you are 33 or 34 years old, you still learn from these guys. They see the game differently and they think differently. They play at such a high pace that you just have to follow.”

Of course he credits teammates for his achievements. His role as a scorer hasn’t overcome his label as a grinder, yet. It is possible that even Dupuis is surprised by his statistics. Perhaps shock is not the sole reason for his humbleness, though.

Few would have predicted such a bright future for the nomadic Canadian half of a decade ago. Dupuis shuffled between three NHL squads during the 2006-07 season before finding a home with the Penguins. He had never scored more than 20 goals and was fresh off an 18-point campaign when he landed in Pittsburgh. By all accounts, he was just a ‘throw in’ with Hossa, but something about playing for your job every night motivates you.

Dupuis, a father of four, is never the most talented guy on the ice. He won’t dangle the front lines of defense or lead the team in scoring. What he will do is give everything he has. All he needs in return is faith – a rare commodity in the NHL these days, as Dupuis found out.

“I bounced around three teams for a year and now I have been here for five. When you feel comfortable somewhere and with the guy you are playing with and the coaching staff, they know what to expect from you and you know what to bring every night.”

dUPUISRay Shero and Dan Bylsma have given Dupuis the consistency every professional athlete desires. Both parties are quite pleased with the results.

Sixty-five percent of the way into the season and Dupuis still ranks among the league’s top ten goal scorers. His .46 goals-per-game prorates to 38 goals in full year. Only four players scored more goals than that last season. Two of those players were Penguins.

Also keep in mind that the bulk of Dupuis’ statistics occur while playing at even strength. He has one powerplay goal this season – the lowest total of any top-40 goal scorer. His average of 1.6 goals per 60 minutes of five-on-five play ranks in the top ten. More impressively, he is the only player in that group that has skated more than 400 minutes.

Quietly, Dupuis has evolved into one of the most dependable forwards in the NHL, thanks to the Penguins’ trust. His contributions are not simply the result of talented linemates, either. Sidney Crosby missed 60 games last season but Dupuis still topped his career best point total by double digits. Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and Kris Letang combining to miss 58 contests didn’t even phase Dupuis. He finished with the eighth-most points per 60 minutes of five-on-five play in the league, despite playing the third most minutes of any top-eight player.

Dupuis’ even-strength statistics don’t even speak to his best quality: versatility. The winger averaged .98 goals per 60 minutes of four-on-five shorthanded play last season. That total placed him 22nd in the NHL even though he skated more shorthanded minutes than any player in the top 30 of the category.

Don’t tell the undrafted forward how valuable he is though. According to Dupuis, he is just doing his job.

“I’ll take the [underdog] role every night. I’m glad to be on a line with Crosby,” he said. “I just know one way to play: it’s giving 100 percent every night and battling for the puck. I don’t know how you prepare for that, but I’m glad they prepare for the other guys rather than me.”

There are not many players in the league that can develop chemistry with an Art Ross champion, scrap with the fourth liners and gel with the penalty kill. Dupuis is one of them. He is the only player on the top Eastern Conference team who ranks in the top five in goals, hits and blocked shots among forwards. He also averages nearly two minutes of penalty kill time per game and 15 minutes of even strength time.

That’s not just a recipe to keep your job; it’s a recipe to win a Stanley Cup. It is for that reason similar players typically top a team’s salary chart. At just $1.5 million per year, however, Dupuis is one of the best bargains in the NHL.

He should be praised for his accomplishments, but in reality, he owes the Penguins – at least, in Dupuis’ reality. Pittsburgh believed in him and gave him an opportunity when other organizations didn’t. He is still repaying the favor.

“Whoever you play with on this team, you will play with great players. I’ll bring the same effort whether I’m on the powerplay, penalty kill or the four-on-Dupuisfour. If they need me to be more of a leader, I’ll do that. I’ll try to do anything. Whatever they ask me I’ll try to do.”

He was the other guy in the Hossa trade. He is the other guy on the Sidney Crosby-Chris Kunitz line. And, he will be the other guy that the Penguins need to resign this off-season. He is underrated and underpaid, but he doesn’t underperform.

After years of playing the underdog role in the NHL, it is time Dupuis got the recognition he deserves from those outside the organization. As far as he is concerned though, the Penguins appreciation is all he wants, because comfort is the only accolade he needs.

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