VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - The Vancouver Canucks are enjoying their extra rest between playoff rounds too much to worry about developing rust.
With as many as 10 days between a four-game sweep of the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday in the first round and the start of the second round next week, the Canucks took two full days off before returning to practice late on Friday morning.
"Even though you want to keep playing, if you can finish off a team early it's important to get that rest and stay fresh because we all know how grueling the playoffs are," said goalie Roberto Luongo, who was back on the ice Friday after cramping that required IV fluids after Game 4.
Center Mats Sundin, who missed the final two games of the first round, was also back at practice Friday. But defensemen Sami Salo, who also missed Game 4 in St. Louis on Tuesday with a lower-body injury, and Willie Mitchell, who was limping noticeably after the series-clinching overtime win, both missed practice.
Fortunately for the Canucks, there's still plenty of time to recover after a series against St. Louis that was every bit as tough and physical as it was short.
"To have this time off is huge," said Mitchell, adding he'd be ready for the second round. "It's a grind, especially if you want to get to the finals and have a chance at that Cup, and if you can get a series done with and get healthy it's good."
Salo isn't expected back at practice until Monday, but insisted he would be ready for the start of the second round. Sundin, though, didn't sound nearly as certain about his return.
"I don't know at this point," said the 38-year-old, refusing to offer any details on his unidentified lower-body injury. "Hopefully I can keep skating and working the way I did today and we'll make a decision as we go on."
Having time off benefits Sundin. The question is how the rest of the team will deal with a break that will be longer than training camp.
As for what team they'd like to play next, the players were being careful not to provide any bulletin board material to a potential second-round opponent. But if eighth-seed Anaheim completes an upset of No. 1 San Jose, they would open at home against the winner of the Chicago-Calgary series. If the Sharks recover from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Ducks, Vancouver will travel to Detroit.
The Red Wings are also resting after sweeping Columbus, but the Flames and Blackhawks are tied at two games, and Game 7, if needed, won't be played until Wednesday.
Even if it goes that long, Luongo isn't worried about losing intensity before the second round.
"The great thing about the playoffs is the adrenaline is always going to be there, whether you have two days off or 10 days off," said Luongo, adding his return to practice Friday was enough to dismiss speculation he'd re-injured the groin that kept him out almost two months earlier in the season. "Once Game 1 starts, the excitement and adrenaline is going to be just where it left off."
Taylor Pyatt also returned for the first time since his fiancee, Carly Bragnalo, was killed in a car accident on April 3 while vacationing in Jamaica with family. The winger took part in the first half of practice, leading the team through its stretches, but there is no timeline for his return to game action. Pyatt issued a statement, but won't talk to the media until he's ready to play.
"I would like to thank my teammates, coaches and the entire Canucks organization for their tremendous compassion and support during this very difficult time for myself, my family and the entire Bragnalo family," Pyatt said in the statement.
The Canucks learned the hard way two years ago how important rest is in the playoffs.
Vancouver blew a 3-1 series lead against Dallas, including a four-overtime victory in the first game, before finally knocking out the Stars on home ice in Game 7.
They started the second round two days later in Anaheim and quickly ran out of energy and healthy bodies, losing to the Ducks in five games.
"We didn't finish off Dallas and ended up with guys that had torn abs, broken ribs, the list goes on and on all the injuries we had and it hurt us playing against Anaheim," Mitchell said. "So to get a team done quick like this is great and we're going to try to use it to our advantage."