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
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
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
“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
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