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Inside Scoop: Cullen turns 40

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Cullen 40th Birthday (11.02.16)

Cullen gets a birthday surprise during practice

Matt Cullen get a surprise from one of his teammates during practice to celebrate his 40th Birthday

  • 00:46 •

Matt Cullen never saw it coming.

During the post morning skate stretch, Cullen was vulnerable and unaware that danger lurked behind him. In one brisk swipe, Cullen's face was covered in shaving cream, thanks to one of his teammates. 

"It surprised me," Cullen said. "That was pretty good. I've never tasted shaving cream before. Now I know."

Cullen should have seen this coming. After all, today is his 40th birthday, and having been around the NHL for 20 years, he knows when a player is susceptible to a prank.

"No, I hadn't even thought about it," said Cullen, dabbing his face with a towel in search of remaining shaving cream. "You have to have your head on a swivel. I wasn't ready."

Cullen has had a decorated career, highlighted by winning two Stanley Cup championships with Carolina (2005) and, of course, Pittsburgh (2016). Cullen, who made his NHL debut on Oct. 28, 1997, recently played in his 1,300th career NHL game.

Cullen contemplated retirement during the offseason, but he wasn't ready to walk away. Even after all of these years, the 40-year-old veteran center still feels like a 20-year-old rookie.

"I've been pretty blessed to be here as long as I have," Cullen said. "I love the game. That's the biggest thing. I really enjoy the games and enjoy the training. I enjoy all of it. I guess I never lost that love."

Cullen has seven points already (2G-7A) through the first nine games of the season, despite having limited ice time on the fourth line. He's also been a major contributor on the Pens' PK unit.

Head coach Mike Sullivan credited two things to Cullen's ability to remain productive despite receiving letters from AARP.

"He's the consummate pro. I think that's what allows him to play into the years that he's playing," Sullivan said. "He skates so well and he takes care of himself. I think that combination allows him to continue to play at the age that he's playing. He's just a terrific pro."

A terrific pro entering the fifth decade of his life.

"I'm starting to feel 40," Cullen laughed. "It's fun being around the game and being around all the young guys. It keeps you feeling young."

All that's left for this pro to accomplish now is finding the culprit that left a bad taste in his mouth - or menthol shaving cream taste to be exact.

"I have an inside line on it already. It's already down to three guys," Cullen ruminated. "I thought it would be Phil (Kessel) or (Nick) Bonino. But Bonino doesn't move quick enough to be whoever that was, because whoever that was moved quick.

"I have a pretty good idea. He might be wearing 29."

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