PITTSBURGH – Wild center Matt Cullen's wife, Bridget, did the cooking, usually gluten-free pasta with chicken or fish.
The meal, however, wasn't the only item on the menu when dinner was at the Cullens'. So was a game of hockey with the Cullens' three sons.
"We're all a bunch of kids," Cullen said.
Becoming a three-time Stanley Cup champion after consecutive wins in 2016 and 2017 is part of Cullen's legacy with the Penguins. But so is his role as mentor, a bond that was highlighted as Cullen returned to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins for the first time Thursday after signing with the Wild in the summer.
"It's probably one of the more rewarding parts of my career is being able to have some impact on some of the young guys there," Cullen said.
The 41-year-old was part of the Penguins' support staff on the ice, anchoring the fourth line while also killing penalties and providing secondary scoring.
"We looked at Matt as an extension of our coaching staff, and he helped us in so many ways, just to keep our finger on the pulse of the team so that we could make the best decisions to try and help this team be successful," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "I have so much respect for Matt as a player and a person. He's certainly a guy we miss here in Pittsburgh."
Cullen was also a leader, whether in the rink or away from it — like when he hosted players for dinner to help get to know them and get them away from the eating-out routine that comes with hotel living. He even earned the nickname "Dad."
"For a guy like me coming up and him kind of taking me under his wing, I was pretty fortunate to have a guy like that," said Penguins center Jake Guentzel, who played high school hockey at Hill-Murray. "He didn't need to, but he went out of his way to help me out. I was pretty lucky."
Those friendships, combined with the success Cullen enjoyed in Pittsburgh, are what made the reunion at PPG Paints Arena even more meaningful.
"Ultimately, you're remembered for the kind of person you are and the impact you have on people, the relationships you build," Cullen said. "I think especially as you get later in your career, you learn to appreciate that and understand that it means a lot to me."
Only a week after reconvening following its mandatory five-day break, the Wild received another timeout with the All-Star break.
Coach Bruce Boudreau planned to watch the Blue Ox, the Coon Rapids junior hockey team he became a majority owner of last summer.
"Hopefully they'll start playing the way they were 10 games ago," Boudreau said, as the Blue Ox have dropped six of their past nine after winning 17 of their previous 18.
Cullen also is staying plugged into hockey; he's going to try to catch a couple high school hockey games.
"We came home to enjoy the Minnesota experience, so it's great to have a few days to be home," he said.
Winger Zach Parise is awaiting the arrival of his third child, a boy, while goalie Devan Dubnyk will be spending time with his new son Dawson, who was born Jan. 15.
Winger Nino Niederreiter, who's been sidelined since Jan. 9 because of a lower-body injury, skated for the first time Wednesday and although it doesn't appear he'll be ready to suit up Tuesday in the team's first game back after the All-Star break, Boudreau hopes Niederreiter will be able to practice Monday.
"We're hoping that if he gets enough practices in that he'd be ready for Vegas [next Friday]," Boudreau said.
•Wild prospect Kirill Kaprizov was named to Russia's men's Olympic hockey team. Kaprizov has 15 goals and 40 points through 46 games this season with CSKA Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League.
•The Wild reassigned forwards Joel Eriksson Ek and Kyle Rau to the Iowa Wild.