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Will the lockout destroy the Penguins key roleplayers?

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The lockout is a ticking clock for some important players on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Justin K. Aller - Getty Images

In many ways, the NHL lockout couldn't have come at a worse time for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Over the past two years, league MVP Evgeni Malkin has suffered and battled back from a torn ACL. And league MVP Sidney Crosby has had his highlighted story for returning from concussion and head/neck trauma. Both are healthy and both are currently locked out.

So, while it's inconvenient for they stars who've found health, it really hurts for the older guys who will only be NHL players for so long. Especially when they've had such good seasons.

Pascal Dupuis is 33 years old. Last year he had a career year in goals (25), assists (34) and points (59). His strengths are his passion- high energy, great speed generated by his technique and lower body strength. Dupuis can play on any line, on either wing, at any situation (even strength, short-handed, power-play, 4-on-4) and acquit himself well. He's also an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2013, whether or not there's a season this year or not.

Matt Cooke just turned 34 years old earlier this month. Last year he had a career year in goals (19) and had his best points total in seven years. Even better, Cooke had his lowest penalty minute total since his second season in 1999-2000. He reformed his game, he still chipped in. He's also an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2013, whether or not there's a season this year or not.

Craig Adams is 35 years old. Last year he had his best season in terms of goals, assists and points since his 2005-06 campaign in Carolina. He's also an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2013, whether or not there's a season this year or not.

Those three players also were the Penguins top three penalty killing forwards, combining for almost 630 minutes in 2011-12. (And the #4 guy was Jordan Staal, who's been traded). For what was the #3 PK unit in the league. Those aren't easy minutes to replace, and while Brandon Sutter and Joe Vitale can be capable at killing penalties, it's unfair to expect them to recreate the success found in the past.

A full-season lockout wouldn't necessarily mean they're all gone, but it's one more year on the clock for the already aging group of support players that helped the Pens win a Cup in 2009.

The lockout sucks for any number of reasons, but if the season is lost, we may never see the same type of output out of some very important players. The young core players like Crosby, Malkin, James Neal and Kris Letang are all near or in their peak primes, but the depth players that help a team win a Cup will only be older...Provided they are even back.