PITTSBURGH – For days leading up to the Feb. 26 NHL trade deadline, Pascal Dupuis needled Marian Hossa incessantly in the Atlanta Thrashers dressing room.
“I was bugging Hoss that he was going to get traded, that he was going to love Montreal or Ottawa or wherever he was going to go,” Dupuis recalled Friday after the morning skate at Mellon Arena. “I just kept bugging him every day and then they called me that day and told me I was moving with him.
“So he kind of got the last laugh on that one.”
Dupuis was completely caught off guard. He hadn’t heard his name in trade rumours. Hossa had been the one generating all the news coverage. While the Canadiens and Senators did indeed make a pitch for Hossa, it’s the Penguins that came in late on deadline day and scooped him up in a blockbuster that cost them forwards Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen, former first-round pick Angelo Esposito and a first-round selection in this year’s draft.
For Dupuis, he doesn’t take it personally when he’s referred to as the “other guy” going to Pittsburgh in the Hossa deal. But a mere throw-in he is not. The 29-year-old native of Laval, Que., is a versatile two-way player who has found himself on a line with Hossa and superstar centre Sidney Crosby. Welcome to Pittsburgh, Pascal.
“He brings a lot of speed, he’s a guy who can shoot the puck as well,” Crosby said ahead of Friday night’s second game of their Eastern Conference quarter-final against the Ottawa Senators. “He has proven he can produce in the playoffs as well. He had a couple of good years in Minnesota and had a decent series against New York last year, too.
“He brings experience and a lot of speed and complements the line well.”
Dupuis is thrilled at the chance he’s been handed.
“It’s special. Those are two guys with a lot of talent and I’m going to just try and do my job out there,” he said. “I got to work in those corners, get the puck on the forecheck.”
Pittsburgh head coach Michel Therrien says Dupuis is getting a chance with Crosby and Hossa that few players get in their careers.
“He’s earned it,” said Therrien. “He’s got the speed, he knows the game really well. He played for a guy like Jacques Lemaire (in Minnesota) and he knows we play almost the same type of system so he feels comfortable.”
Having played for Lemaire in Minnesota is a valuable part to have on your NHL resume. It means you arrive with an acute knowledge of the defensive game.
“I’m really happy that I started my career under Jacques in that kind of system,” said Dupuis. “Obviously when you play for Jacques Lemaire for six and a half years people know you played in that kind of system. It’s probably what coaches are looking for.” Julien has used Dupuis in a penalty-killing role as well, just like Hossa and fellow newcomer Hal Gill. Pittsburgh’s PK has improved after the trade deadline in large part because of those three players.
“That was a facet of our game that we felt we needed to get better,” said Therrien. “It’s not a coincidence our penalty killing is much better than it was before the deadline.”
Dupuis feels rejuvenated after the trade, having an unexpected chance at playoff hockey and maybe a championship.
“It’s been awesome, especially coming here to Pittsburgh with such a great bunch of guys and a lot of talent,” he said. “Being in the playoffs and playing a Canadian team, it’s special and it’s great to be playing hockey right now.”
Dupuis, who recently welcomed the arrival of a third child, will be an unrestricted free agent July 1. It’s no secret he wants to stay.
“Obviously, yes, it’s a great spot for me. My family got here last week and they seem to like it,” said Dupuis.