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'Season of adversity' turns into career year for the Penguins' Bryan Rust

Mike Defabo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Hockey

When the puck smashed into Bryan Rust's hand in the final period of the final preseason game, that should have been a sign that the 2019-20 season would be anything but normal.

A season that began a month late because of the hand injury might also have ended prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But in between those unfortunate bookends? Rust enjoyed a career year, rattling off goals and redefining his place on the team.

Though he played in just 55 games, Rust led the Penguins with 27 goals. His contributions were all the more significant on an injury-ravaged team.

"It's just been a season of adversity," Rust said on Tuesday during a video conference call with local reporters. "Depending where this goes, if we get back into the season, it's kind of another hurdle that we're going to try to overcome."

For the time being, Rust is like most players, stuck in a holding pattern waiting for what's next.

The Michigan native is staying in the Pittsburgh area with his wife, his two dogs and his brother-in-law. They've also invited teammate Zach Aston-Reese and Aston-Reese's puppy. So while many of us are passing time in quarantine by binge-watching TV shows, Rust's setup itself kind of sounds like the plot of a bad sitcom.

 

"There's a bit of a full house," Rust said. "My wife was being really gracious and reached out to (Aston-Reese) to watch the puppy while we were on the road. To make things easier and make the transition smoother, we offered to have him stay with us."

Rust said he's passing time by playing board games like Catan and helping his wife make some interior design decisions for their summer home.

While players are not permitted to skate -- or really even leave their houses for that matter -- Rust is doing his best to stay in shape during the self-quarantine. He's got a decent home gym with dumbbells, bands and exercise balls. Aston-Reese and Rust have also been keeping their hockey skills sharp by playing street hockey, which he said is taking him back to being a kid.

"As far as the uncertainty of the season and all that goes, it's obviously really tough," Rust said. "We're trying to make the most of it. But, obviously, not being able to get on the ice or do much skating or even some sort of skill work makes you a little bit rusty. Some guys in the summer don't even go a month or more without skating. It definitely poses a bit of a challenge there."

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