The Penguins returned to practice on Thursday afternoon at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex after having eight full days off for the All-Star break and bye week feeling refreshed and re-energized.
"I know guys came to the rink today and it was probably the most excitement I've seen around the room in a while," Bryan Rust said. "I think everybody was happy to see each other again and be back at the rink. We're ready to go for these next 32 games and playoffs."
We talked to a few of the players about what they did while they were away…
"I went to LA. My aunt lives there. Just chilled, went to an animal sanctuary. Played with some monkeys and some kangaroos, so that was really cool. Then I got a couple tattoos - a little saying from my favorite author and then a sword. My artist is this Russian guy who lives out there, so I was telling him all the curse words I learned from 'G' (Evgeni Malkin) and he was loving it (laughs). It was good, it was fun to just relax. I didn't do anything crazy. My aunt lives a little bit north of Santa Clarita, so it's up in the mountains and it's really gorgeous. She works with a dog rescue, so I got to go to a couple shelters and help some dogs get saved. I love California. It's always a good time. So it was really fun."
"My wife and I went up to our lake house in Canada for a little bit. Hung out in the snow. We went dog sledding one day, which was really cool - something I'd never done before and we had a blast. We love dogs, obviously, so we had to try it. My wife found it online, I think, and one of our friends had mentioned it to us. It was like 45 minutes from our house in Huntsville and we went there and it was one of the coolest places ever. It had almost 100 dogs at this place. They're like Husky mixes, there's six dogs per sled and one person drives, so I actually got to drive the sled and use the brake and stuff like that. I was good, but I was really nervous at first, because the instructor kind of put the fear of God in my eyes a little bit. He was pretty harsh with the instructions and making sure everything was perfect. So at first I was white-knuckling it a little bit, but I figured it out by the end and it was pretty fun. We had a good time. We went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming last year. I love the snow. I love the mountains, too, especially. I grew up in the snow and I kind of miss it, so it kind of reminds me of home."
"I went to Saint Kitts and Nevis out in the Caribbean, past Turks and Caicos and near St. Martin. We just did some research on the islands, and that one looked good. Found a good hotel. We wanted to go somewhere new. It was a lot of fun. We spent a lot of time on the beach and walked through the main town a little bit there; there's not much to it. Did some swimming, paddle boarding, a mini-boat snorkeling-type thing. Came back with a little bit of a tan. I probably was hoping for a little bit more of a tan but yeah, I was a little bit too cautious of getting burnt (laughs)."
"I went back to Boston for a couple days and saw some family and friends. It was nice to go back and not think about hockey, just to take a little bit of a break. It's a long season, you don't get that many breaks. But I think when you do, I think a lot of the guys take advantage of it. You get to recharge and come back feeling refreshed."
"My girlfriend and I went to Mexico. We did a resort down there, the Excellence in Isla Mujeres, and it was fun. I don't know how to pronounce it obviously, but it was awesome. Great resort. We met some Canadians down there, so it was pretty fun. We talked about Canadian stuff. They were from Ottawa, so they were hockey people for sure."
"The day after we got done playing my girlfriend and I went straight to Washington D.C., actually. We took the car and drove there and saw some of the history there. I had never been around there. We went to the Lincoln Memorial and stuff. We got back Sunday, so we've been here for a couple days now and it's just nice to get back early and take it easy for a while. Just enjoy the break. We play so many games, especially at the end towards the break. It's nice to just take it easy and take a deep breath.
"I didn't go anywhere far, just my house in Arizona. I spent some good time with my loved ones then back here. I just enjoyed the weather, took it easy and had some good meals. Pretty basic stuff. I rollerbladed a couple times, spent a lot of time outside, whether it was in the pool or Jacuzzi or a little hiking. I skated once, too, so it was nice. Nothing that would sound cool in the media (laughs). It was a little warmer than here, but here is still pretty nice for winter. Just getting away from the everyday routine was nice."
"I went to New York. Just did some exploring, nothing crazy. We have a dog, so it was easy for us. We go there with the team, but it isn't the same as going there for vacation."
"I went down to Key West, Florida for a few days. I just kind of walked around. There's a lot of live music and boat tours, so it was nice. The music was pretty much just cover songs, a lot of country, but pretty much just playing crowd pleasers for everyone there. We also rode bikes around the small town and ate some good food."
"I was in Florida. My parents just got a place in Naples not too long ago, so I was able to go down and see that for the first time."