Penguins use All-Star break to rest and recover

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It is not enough time for all of the Penguins' fractures and sprains to mend, for a lineup that has been shredded by injuries and illness to be put back together.

Not even close.

All-Star Weekend
  • Events: SuperSkills competition and Young-Stars game, 7 p.m. today, Phillips Arena in Atlanta.
  • TV: Versus.
  • Matchup: Eastern All-Stars vs. Western All-Stars, 8 p.m. Sunday, Phillips Arena.
  • TV, Radio, Internet: Versus, XM Radio,
  • Hidden fact: This is the 56th NHL All-Star Game. The first was in Toronto in 1947.

But the three days off the Penguins will have for the All-Star break -- their time away from the rink began after a 4-3 loss in Philadelphia Thursday and will continue until a practice Monday afternoon -- should allow most of them to rest and recharge for the stretch drive that begins Tuesday night in New Jersey.

"It's obviously good for the body, to have a couple of days off," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "But it's good for the mind, too."

Three players -- center Evgeni Malkin and defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Kris Letang -- will have a more abbreviated break. They are in Atlanta, where Letang will compete in the YoungStars game tonight and Gonchar and Letang will play for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star Game tomorrow.

Odds are that coach Michel Therrien will excuse them from practice Monday, but they still won't have as much opportunity as their teammates to build up their energy reserves.

Defenseman Darryl Sydor played in All-Star games in 1998 and 1999 and understands the demands placed on the players. Not only by the skills competition and game, but by off-ice activities, ranging from photo sessions to league-sponsored social events.

"It's tough," he said. "They have the guys going. They're long days, and they don't get much of a rest."

Forward Erik Christensen suggested that, aside from a workout or two, his plans for the break didn't include anything more strenuous than, oh, elevating the footrest in a reclining chair.

"What would make me happy is just hanging out at home, watching movies," he said. "Going for workouts in the morning and just hanging out.

"If we get three days where I can just not think about hockey and relax, just enjoy spending time at home, that's what you need. For an athlete whose mind is going all the time and you're always thinking about hockey, hockey, hockey all the time, it's nice to have a couple of days to recharge your batteries."

Most players, though, seemed to include at least a little travel in their weekend plans. Some were keeping it relatively local, with destinations like Nemacolin Woodlands. A few were heading south for sunshine and warm temperatures and a surprising number were going north, perhaps in pursuit of the perfect wind-chill factor.

Goalie Ty Conklin is spending the weekend with his family in central Maine. Orpik and fellow defenseman Ryan Whitney headed home to Boston. Center Maxime Talbot is visiting friends and relatives in his native Montreal.

"For me, family is more important than sun," Talbot said.

While no one is planning to ignore the physical demands of his job for the entire break -- "If you don't do anything for three days, it can be a little counterproductive," Orpik said -- Christensen is one of the few who seems intent on getting in some sort of workout every day.

"I've found that if I take a day off, I don't feel very good the next day," he said. "I always try to do something, whether it's just skating or coming to the rink and getting on the treadmill or the [stationary] bike."

Truth be told, few of his teammates plan to spend much, if any, time on skates before reporting back to work.

"I'll try to get one or two bike rides, but no skating," Talbot said. "I went a month without skating [because of a high ankle sprain], so I guess I can go three days."

His plans pretty much echoed those of Whitney, who said, "I might ride the bike Saturday or Sunday, but I won't bring any gear with me."

His skates and other equipment will be waiting here for him when he returns. So will the final 33 games of the regular season.

NOTE -- Asked if the NHL office will investigate the play on which Georges Laraque knocked Philadelphia winger Steve Downie into the boards from behind Thursday night, a league official responded, "We look at everything," but would neither offer details nor say whether a hearing is planned. ... The Penguins returned forwards Ryan Stone, Chris Minard and Tim Brent to their American Hockey League minor-league team in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Dave Molinari can be reached at .


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