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Pens using time off to their advantage

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

Though the Pens had the day off following their series-clinching win in Game 5 against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday, some guys just couldn't stay away from the rink as a big group of players went to PPG Paints Arena on Friday for the Eric Church concert.

"It was awesome," said Olli Maatta, who added that Church was the first country singer he listened to when he came over from Finland. "I think just being with the guys, it just kind of took your mind away from hockey. I think that was awesome. You are kind of recharged and have a lot of energy to get back into it."

After the team did an off-ice workout on Saturday, a few guys went to the Pirates game at PNC Park while others hung out with their families and got quality time there.

"It's good for everyone just to get away from the game a little bit and for guys who are banged up just to get a little rest and heal," Brian Dumoulin said.

And when they returned to the ice for a 45-minute practice Sunday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, the players said they were mentally ready to get back at it physically.

"It was good to rest," Nick Bonino said. "It was good to have a day off and have an off-ice workout and not get on the ice. I think now that we're back on the ice, we're ramping up to where we need to be for Game 1. I think everyone feels good. We have a pretty good setup back there with our trainers and staff, and we'll be in the best shape we can be Wednesday or Thursday."

And to be honest, Sidney Crosby said they actually were looking forward to getting a hard session in.

"It's nice to get some practice in," Crosby admitted. "It's nice to go over the little details, feel the puck and work on things. You don't get that opportunity too often, so if we manage it the right way, I think it's something that can help us."

For head coach Mike Sullivan, while it's important to get his players rest and recovery, he said it's just as crucial to put them in a competitive environment where they push the pace and participate in competitive battle drills that are game-like so that they continue to experience the necessary workload.

"We need to focus like the practices are games," Evgeni Malkin said.

There's not much the Pens can do in terms of scouting and video work until they know their opponent. They'll face the winner of the Washington-Toronto series, with the Capitals holding a 3-2 lead and Game 6 being played tonight.

And while the guys said they'll all be watching that, overall the main focus is on themselves and what they need to do to get better.

"Last game against Columbus, they had 51 shots," Malkin said. "It's too much. We need to focus on that a little bit better, in the neutral zone and D zone. I know we have a good goalie but sometimes we need to give him a little bit less (laughs) and we need to work hard in our D zone."

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