The Penguins returned to the ice Saturday.
It was the team’s first practice following Wednesday’s 3-1 win in Ottawa in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
That victory capped off a four-game sweep of the Senators and propelled the Penguins into the Eastern Conference semis. It also earned the team two days of rest before getting back to work Saturday.
“That was good for us to get done in four and get some time to rest and recover,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “Obviously, the playoffs wear on you, so any rest you can get is important.”
The two days off were a boost - mentally and physically - for the Penguins.
“You have to keep going and playing, but at the same time, you have to rest because it’s so tough,” defenseman Kris Letang said. “It can be a big two months of playoffs. You can’t keep going playing in seven game series. If you can finish a series in four or five games, it’s going to benefit you because you’ll get some rest. Some injuries or bumps and bruises will happen, so you need to get better through that week. I think everybody will be healthy and ready to go for our next series.”
The Penguins will draw the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“It’s nice that we’re through our first series and we’re able to sit back and watch a bit,” Crosby said. “I think everyone involved in the playoffs has fun being a part of it and to follow it is fun, too.”
Added Jordan Staal: “It’s always fun to watch playoff hockey really. Even though you’re a part of it, you love watching it, too. I think all of us have been watching lots of games and seeing what’s going on.”
Watching all those games has made the Penguins eager to get back on the ice.
“It was good to get back out there. After a couple games off, everyone is watching all the other games on TV, so you’re excited to get back and going again,” Penguins winger Ryan Malone said. “It was a good time off to get some rest and ready for the next series.”
The Penguins are ready for nearly a week of intense practices to remain sharp heading into the next series.
“We want to get focused,” Malone said. “Whoever we play, we’re having good practices and staying sharp. We keep pushing each other to get ready for Game 1.”
One drawback of having so much time off is the rust factor heading into the next game. Still, the Penguins would much rather have the time off than be engaged in a long, draining series.
“I think it’s good. We played very well against Ottawa and I thought we deserved all four wins,” Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi said. “Now, we’re at a point where we probably will have some rust most likely in the first game, but that usually doesn’t last too long. It takes a couple shifts, maybe a period tops, to get back into it. Usually at that point, you’re back to where you were.”
This week, the Penguins will just focus on maintaining the momentum gained against the Senators.
“Our game doesn’t really change no matter who we play. I think we’ll keep doing the same things we did in preparation for Ottawa,” Crosby said. “If there are little adjustments we have to make, we’ll make them. For the most part, we’re just going to be worried about our team.”