The Penguins were originally scheduled to practice Thursday and have a day off Friday. But after Pittsburgh’s big win over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night, the team canceled their skate for the next day – giving them back-to-back days off the ice, a rarity in this compressed Olympic schedule. Heck, any schedule, really.
The guys certainly tried to make the most of it, with a lot of them attending the third annual Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation Wine Tasting Gala here at CONSOL Energy Center Thursday night in addition to a lot of rest and relaxation.
“It was really nice, felt great,” admitted Matt Niskanen, the only defenseman who has skated in all 48 of the Penguins’ games. “Thursday I did the wine gala and then yesterday we didn’t do anything. A couple good meals and a lot of couch time. It was nice to just sit back and relax. I think it’s good long-term; it maybe didn’t feel as good today on the ice – a little tight and a little sluggish – but I think long-term it’s good to let your body heal up when you have that opportunity.”
Niskanen said he watched a lot of television from said couch, laughing that it included “a little bit of E! on Miley and Britney Spears, then I switched to Family Guy. A wide spectrum of a lot of things.”
While goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who’s started 39 of those 48 games – which ties for second in the league – also rested, he cherished spending quality time with his wife
Veronique and baby daughter Estelle, born this past April, as well as former teammate Brent Johnson, who was his goalie partner for three seasons here in Pittsburgh from 2009-12.
“We had a charity dinner here at the rink on Thursday night,” Fleury said. “I spent some time with my daughter and wife and got my daughter’s ears pierced. I saw Brent Johnson, a guy I played with. It was pretty mellow.”
Bylsma said while the coaching staff wanted their players to enjoy their break, they also advised them to get at least one off-ice workout in over the two days off.
“We talked about (getting a workout) after the game on Wednesday and advised another one,” Bylsma said. “Some guys worked out on Thursday. Some guys worked out yesterday, but it was their option to do so. I know a handful of guys came in and worked out and some guys just don’t like to be off for two full days and doing nothing. So they know it’s best to come in. It was a chance for two full workouts off the ice between now and game time on Monday and also rest time.
“We came back today and the guys made it probably the longest practice of the year with making it 3-on-3 and 2-on-2 and wanting to go till we got the winner. But we came back with some different kind of work, some hard work in different areas in our game and will again tomorrow.”