Extra days off could benefit Pittsburgh more than Nashville

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PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins have played a lot of hockey in the last month and a bit. Since taking out Columbus in the first round, they’ve gone seven games with Washington, then seven more with Ottawa. They’re currently four games into the Stanley Cup Final with Nashville, with at least two more to go.

So for the Penguins, it was nice to get two days off between Game 4 Monday and Game 5 tonight — especially against a Predators team that’s only played 20 games this postseason, compared to Pittsburgh’s 23.

“It should give us opportunities to maybe utilize some of our top people a little bit more than we might if the schedule was condensed,” Pens coach Mike Sullivan said Thursday morning at PPG Paints Arena.

In other words, expect to see plenty of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin the rest of the series. Those two already play a lot. With the benefit of rest, their minutes could be pushed even higher.

There will be another two days off before Game 6 in Nashville. And if a seventh game back in Pittsburgh is necessary, another two days off before that.

“It gives both teams an opportunity to get some rest, which should result in a higher-quality game, a faster-paced game,” said Sullivan. “I think that at this time in the season, both teams have played a lot of hockey.”

But the Penguins have played more, and logic dictates that they could use the rest the most.

Just don’t tell Malkin that.

“I know people talk about how we’re tired, but believe me, they’re tired too,” Malkin said. “It’s not only us tired. It’s only three games left. We’re not talking about being tired.”