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On the surface, it doesnt' seem like that impressive of an accomplishment. But when you consider factors such as injuries, suspensions, lineup changes, finding a way to play in all 82 games of an NHL regular season schedule is fairly impressive.
And when you consider the roles of four players who accomplished the feat this season for the Penguins, its even more impressive.
Craig Adams, Matt Cooke, Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz (above, with Dupuis) each found their name on the game roster of all 82 of the Penguins games this past regular season. And all four play tough, phyiscal games. Adams, Cooke and Dupuis each play grueling minutes on one of the league's best penalty kills. Additionally, Kunitz has the difficult duty of being a net-front presence which invites abuse in a variety of forms.
Recently, all four talked about playing in all 82 games.
Chris Kunitz, LW (right)
How big of an accomplishment is playing 82 games for you?
"It’s obviously a grind towards the end towards the end. Everybody feels the pressure with how you’re trying to fight for those playoff spots."
At the start of the season, do you realistically expect or hope to play in all 82 games?
"Yeah, I think so. You try to prepare and put yourself into the best situation every night. Odd are, it’s usually not going to happen. You’ve got to prepare each and every game. That’s part of being professional. It’s a grind but you still got to go out there and try to put your best foot forward and stay as close to the system as you can."
Considering the injuries you've endured the previous two seasons and your playing style, are you surprised you made it to all 82 games?
"Not really too surprised. If you play so many games, the body goes through wear and tear. Everybody goes through it at some point. But you try to prepare for it for it in the offseason."
Pascal Dupuis, RW (right)
Which meant more to you this season? Setting new offensive career highs or playing in all 82 games?
"All 82. You want to be in the lineup. You want to be consistent. Last year, I missed one game. It wasn’t because of injury. It was because my daughter was born. I try to stay in the gym a little bit. Try to keep your body up tempo throughout the season. You don’t want to get too skinny or two weak out there. "
How difficult is it being in the lineup for this team every game considering some of the talent it has up front?
"It probably makes it easier. You play with great talent anywhere you play in the lineup. You know you’ll have a chance every night to create stuff. It’s just good to be a part of that lineup."
Considering how much you play on the penalty kill, are you surprised you lasted all 82 without any injuries?
"Knock on wood. Playing 82 games, that’s what they expect from everybody. I guess hockey is a sport where injuries happen but you try to stay away from that."Matt Cooke, LW
What did it mean to you to play all 82 games?
"Obviously, it was a focus of mine. Sometimes, injuries, you can’t really control. The other part of it, I just wanted to make sure I was helping my team win and that was my focus."
Do you start a season and realistically expect or hope to play in every game?
"I think everybody wants to play 82. It’s just that injuries are a part of it and usually they come in bunches. I went through a span from (2004) to (2008) that was pretty injury ridden. But since then, injuries haven’t really been that big a part. I’ve been fortunate that way. Just to get in 82 games this year is an accomplishment for me."
What meant more to you this season? Setting a career high in goals (19) or playing in all 82 games?
"To me, just being able to help my team to be in the position it’s in, having home ice in the first round and being able to contribute night in, night out and helping is the most important to me."Craig Adams, RW (right)
How big is it playing in all 82 games?
"Yeah, I think everybody wants to play all the time. It was great that Dan (Bylsma) gave me that opportunity. I was lucky to stay healthy as well."
How difficult is it staying in the lineup for every game considering some of the players they brought in during the offseason and the prospects in the AHL fighting for roster spots?
"It’s hard. This organization has a lot of great depth. You definitely have ups and downs during the season. Stretches maybe where you don’t play as well and you’re a candidate to come out of the lineup. For whatever reason, Dan left me in there and I’m happy that he did."
Are you surprised you got in for all 82 games?
"Not surprising. Just fortunate. Dodged a few bullets here and there."
What's more difficult? Staying fresh physically or mentally for all 82 games?
"I think it’s a bit of both. Sometimes, you don’t feel that good. You’re not as excited for the game as you are at other times. I think the biggest thing is when it’s not as fun to play when you’re nursing something. When you don’t feel you can play as hard as you want to or as effectively as you want to. That just makes the game not as fun. That’s when it grinds on you after a while."
Dan Bylsma, head coach (right)
"I didn’t know how much of an accomplishment it was until later in my career when it started not to happen. I was playing a lot of games early on in my career and you kind of expect to be on the ice. It’s a difficult accomplishment being that healthy. Especially when you’re talking about guys like Chris Kunitz who is a rugged guy and plays a rough game. He plays a lot bigger than he is. It’s a big accomplishment. It’s tough keep healthy. It’s tough to keep away from bumps and bruises that keep you out of the lineup. It’s tough to stay away from some injuries. To be able to have those guys, they’ve added a lot of consistency to our lineup."
(Photos: Kunitz/Dupuis and Dupuis alone-Bruce Bennett/Getty Images; Kunitz, Cooke and Bylsma-Jamie Sabau/Getty Images; Adams-Harry How/Getty Images)
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