Defenseman Rob Scuderi was one the players mentioned. The 34-year-old signed a four-year free-agent contract this summer, returning to the team that drafted him after four seasons in Los Angeles. Hopefully the Penguins didn’t get too attached to their old friend, because the team announced after Monday’s win in Carolina that Scuderi will be out indefinitely with a broken left ankle.
Scuderi was injured Saturday night in Toronto when the Maple Leafs’ David Clarkson pinned his left leg against the boards with a clean check. Scuderi immediately left that game and was sent back to Pittsburgh, where the fracture was discovered and surgery was prescribed.
Prior to Monday, Scuderi hadn’t missed a regular-season game in three full seasons, a streak of 276 contests without being scratched. The Penguins will have to adapt to the absence of one of the more reliable defenders in recent NHL history for at least the next couple of months.
Fortunately, all-star blueliner Kris Letang has played three straight games after recovering from a knee injury and rookie Olli Maatta was retained following his nine-game tryout period, giving Pittsburgh enough depth on its roster to avoid making a hasty trade or calling up another defenseman from the AHL.
Scuderi was averaging just over 19 minutes of ice time per game and quickly reclaimed his spot on the Penguins’ regular penalty-killing rotation. One of his specialties is blocked shots, of which he had 19 in 10 games, but he’s also a tremendous positional defender whose skill set won’t be easily replaced.
With Scuderi out, more work will fall to fellow veterans Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin, Matt Niskanen, Deryk Engelland and Letang. Also, youngsters Robert Bortuzzo and Maatta will have to further prove themselves at this level if the Penguins hope to continue their early defensive success.