For Patric Hornqvist, the waiting is not the hardest part. It’s the best part.
The National Hockey League’s schedule makers did Hornqvist – and a couple of his teammates – a favor when they delayed the start of the Nashville Predators’ playoff series with the Chicago Blackhawks until Friday.
“It’s great for me,” Hornqvist, Nashville’s top goal scorer, said. “Two more days to get ready, so yeah it’s exciting to be in the playoffs.”
Half of the league’s eight first-round playoff series’ will commence Wednesday. Three others will start Thursday. The Nashville-Chicago matchup will be the final one to get underway, which it finally will at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the United Center.
Hornqvist missed the final game of the regular season with an upper body injury sustained last week at Phoenix but was expected to be available at the start of the postseason, even if Nashville’s first game was Wednesday.
“If it was Wednesday, Hornie would be playing,” coach Barry Trotz said. “Since it’s Friday, he’ll be playing.”
Another possibility, however, is that defenseman Denis Grebeshkov could be available Friday as well.
Acquired from Edmonton days before the league’s trade deadline, he sustained a lower body injury in his fourth game with Nashville, back on March 7, and has not played since. Monday, he completed a full workout with the team for the first time since being injured.
“Actually, the way (Grebeshkov) is going right now, it’s encouraging,” Trotz said. “He might be made available by Friday. I originally was saying the first two games maybe not, but the way he’s sort of made a turnaround here … . We’ll play it by ear.”
The Predators also used the extra time between games to allow defenseman Ryan Suter a day of rest. He watched Monday’s practice session but was expected back on the ice for Tuesday’s workout.
Suter led Nashville (he was 21st overall in the league) in average ice time during the regular season at 23:58. In addition to the fact that he was one of only three Predators who appeared in all 82 games of the regular season, he also played a significant role for the United States’ silver medal winning team at the Olympics in February.
“We just thought the extra day would benefit him,” Trotz said. “He’s played a lot of hockey and a lot of minutes. … He’s got a couple nagging injuries and we just gave him the day off (Monday).”
Hornqvist will not practice with the team until Wednesday.
The 23-year-old scored 30 goals, which made him just the fourth Nashville player ever to reach that mark, and tied Steve Sullivan for the team lead in points with 51. His eight game-winning goals tied the franchise record shared by Scott Hartnell (2005-06) and J.P. Dumont (2007-08), and his 10 power-play goals also were a team-high.
In the six regular-season meetings with the Blackhawks, he had just one goal and no assists.
“It’s nice to have the two extra days,” he said. “If I take a step backwards or something, I still can get ready for the game.
“I’ll be 100 percent (on Friday). It would be hard to play if I wasn’t.”
• General manager David Poile was named associate general manager for the United States National Team for the 2010 World Championships, which will take place May 7-23 in Germany.
Poile had the same role with the 2010 U.S. Olympic team as well as the 2009 national team. He also was general manager for the 1998 and 1999 U.S. national teams.