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Pens rested, recharged after bye week

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

The Penguins returned to practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex on Friday at 4 p.m. following their NHL-mandated bye week, which started on Monday. Here's what a few of the players did during that time…

* A lot of guys escaped to tropical locales, a welcome respite from the (mostly) bitter cold here in Pittsburgh.

Conor Sheary went to Florida, as did both of the Swedes. Carl Hagelin visited Miami - "just enjoyed the beach, the weather and the ocean," he said - while Patric Hornqvist traveled to Orlando. He and his wife Malin took their four-year-old daughter Isabella to Disney World for the first time.

Patric's parents took him and his younger sister twice when he was growing up, so it was special for him to share that with his child.

"I was there probably 20 years ago, but it was the first time for her," Patric said of his little girl. "She was excited. She met all the princesses, and me and my wife had fun too. It was a great experience for us."

Bryan Rust, Brian Dumoulin and their significant others went to the Bahamas together, as did Riley Sheahan. He and his girlfriend didn't schedule the trip until recently, but it wouldn't have been affected regardless seeing as Detroit had the same bye week.

"It was just something we just planned within the last month or so," he said.

Ryan Reaves traveled to Cancun, Mexico with Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds, whom he met through his former Blues teammate Chris Stewart and has since become one of his good buddies. "We go on vacation together every bye week," Reaves said. "Whatever trips we usually go on, if they line up, we usually go together."

* While those guys spent their time in the sand, many of their teammates chose to stay in the snow.

Kris Letang returned home to Quebec, where he and his son Alexander went dog sledding. Sidney Crosby also traveled to the Great White North, where he stayed at the Mont-Tremblant resort outside of Montreal.

"Did some outdoor activities. No sun there," he said with a smile. "It was nice to get away and excited to get back at it here."

Jamie Oleksiak also went to Canada, returning home to Toronto for a belated Christmas celebration with his family. Jake Guentzel's mom and brother visited him here in Pittsburgh over the holidays, so he went back to Minnesota and stayed with his family over the break.

"I think it was good to get some home-cooked meals, have no one to cook for me here," he joked. "It's nice to get home and see some friends you haven't seen for a while."

* Finally, unfortunately not everyone's break went according to plan.

Inclement weather affected a couple of players, including Justin Schultz, who had hoped to return home to western Canada after missing the team's road trip there back in November due to injury.

"We were going to (go back to Kelowna), but flights got messed up, so we didn't end up getting back," he said. "Hung around here and just relaxed and recharged."

* With the amount of hockey these guys have played over the last two years with their back-to back championships, the players certainly enjoyed their time away, wherever it ended up being.

"Just to relax and being able to wake up whatever time you want to wake up and having no plans, really, throughout the day, that's nice," Hagelin said.

But now that they're back in Pittsburgh, Schultz said it was apparent guys were rested, recharged and ready to go, and Hornqvist echoed a similar sentiment.

"Everybody was excited here in practice," Hornqvist said. "We're excited for this test here in front of us."

Hornqvist admitted that as the bye week went on, it was difficult not to get caught up looking at what was happening in the league.

"I think the first few days you just let it go, and after a few days you're checking stats and what the other teams are doing and all that," he said. "We live and die with hockey, we love it so much. But the first few days it was easy to get away from it, but after that, it just starts creeping in to check the other scores and where we are in the standings."

He and Crosby both mentioned how huge it was to produce back-to-back wins against the Islanders and Bruins heading into the break, and how they're looking to pick up right where they left off.

"We haven't played our best hockey here so far, but the last two games actually were really good," Hornqvist said. "We played solid for 60 minutes, both games. Even when we let a few goals up there in Boston, we never stopped playing our game. That's what happened before in the season. When we got scored on a few times we kind of got away from our game. It didn't happen in Boston. We come back and win and that was big for us coming into the bye week. And now go forward from there."

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