While City of Champions will keep you regularly updated on how the seven Pittsburgh Penguins Olympians are doing in Russia, we don’t want to lose track of the players who stayed behind for the NHL’s hiatus.
In fact, although any hockey player would presumably love to represent his/her country, I’m sure most NHLers are going to thoroughly enjoy the rare break. This season’s condensed schedule has been grueling, so an opportunity to rest before the stretch run is especially valuable.
The Penguins are no exception to this, but there are a few who will benefit more from relaxation than others. In fact, I can name five that come to mind right away. Here they are, in ascending order:
5. Beau Bennett
You might have forgotten about him since he had his broken wrist surgically repaired in late November, but Bennett is getting close to completing his rehabilitation.
The 22-year-old winger has played in a mere 38 NHL games, during which he’s scored 17 points, but the Penguins will likely give him a shot to compete for the top-line spot vacated by the injured Pascal Dupuis. That is, the Pens will probably plug in Bennett on Sidney Crosby‘s right flank once the 2010 first-round draft pick gets healthy, which has been a consistent issue in his young career.
Durability concerns aside, the Olympic break helps Bennett by taking some of the pressure off him to rush back. As he works on building his strength and conditioning, Bennett can have a greater sense of calm than if he were continuing to miss games. That may not seem like a huge deal, but it encourages Bennett to take his time – at least until the season resumes Feb. 27.