Delayed start no problem for Nashville, Chicago

Fans can hardly wait for the Nashville Predators and Chicago

Blackhawks to start the postseason.

For the players, the delay of Game 1 until Friday is a welcome

rest break.

No. 2 seed Chicago wrapped up the regular season playing five

games in eight days with its final game Sunday, while

seventh-seeded Nashville played 17 games in March – most in the

Western Conference. Their first-round opening series will be the

NHL’s last to hit the ice.

“It’s not bad for us,” Chicago left wing Andrew Ladd said.

“We had a lot of guys in the Olympics, and they could use four or

five days to get refreshed.”

This gap is the longest since training camp for the six

Blackhawks and seven Predators who played through the Olympic break

– all making the medal round. Of those, Chicago had four playing in

the gold medal game with Patrick Kane facing off against his

Canadian teammates Jonathan Toews and defensemen Duncan Keith and

Brent Seabrook.

Only defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter played in that game

for Nashville with Weber taking home gold. Then it was back to work

with both teams playing again March 2.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz thinks the mental grind was tough

for those who went from the gold-medal game back to just another

NHL regular season game.

“That’s almost like getting sent to the minors in a sense

because of the intensity and the quality of play,” he said. “That

was as high as you’re ever going to see probably just because of

the talent level and the execution level and the intensity level

and all that. That’s an adrenaline rush, and then a crash. You’ve

got to get up again.”

Suter played a game-high 31 minutes, 31 seconds in that gold

medal game.

“The mind is probably the biggest thing,” said Suter, who was

given a rare day off on Monday. “You need your body. It is what it

is. Injuries are what they are. To get your mind back refreshed, it

makes you feel good.”

The Predators are as healthy as they have ever been now going

into their fifth playoff series in six seasons. Right wing Patric

Hornqvist, who missed the regular season finale after being hit by

a Weber slap shot on April 7, is expected to be ready for Game 1.

The delay also means defenseman Denis Grebeshkov, who got hurt

March 7 when hit by a puck, might be available Sunday.

A few of the Blackhawks will also benefit from the delayed start

of the series.

The extra time off has helped Chicago right wing Troy Brouwer’s

conditioning. He missed the final four games of the regular season

because his father was hospitalized in Vancouver.

“It’s nice I get these extra couple of days to get a few

practices in and get the legs going,” Brouwer said.

And though defenseman Brian Campbell won’t play Friday, he did

practice on Wednesday for the first time since breaking a

collarbone and rib March 14 when hit by Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.

He won’t play Friday.

With Chicago’s hectic stretch run to end the regular season,

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville says the delay gives his team a

chance to catch their breath.

“It puts us in a spot we should (use) this time to refresh

ourselves and get excited about starting,” Quenneville said. “The

schedule is the way it is and you have to deal with it. Once you

get into the series, it’s kind of the way you expected, every other

day. So we’ll be busy. We hope we can take advantage of the

rest.”

Nashville had hoped for a quick start to the playoffs, trying to

take advantage of a schedule that had the Predators play only two

games in the final week. Now they hope to turn the delayed start

into a positive.

“It’s a good chance for us to get some good practices in,”

Weber said. “The schedule we had in March was pretty hectic. There

wasn’t a lot of good, hard practices like we’ve had. I think that’s

helping us and will be a good way to go into Friday.”

AP Sports Writer Rick Gano in Chicago contributed to this

report.