Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Toronto Marlies Ready for Opening Round Series against Rival Rochester: Marlies Prepare for Familiar Playoff Foe

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Toronto Marlies Ready for Opening Round Series against Rival Rochester: Marlies Prepare for Familiar Playoff Foe

Article excerpt

TORONTO - With the North Division crown secured weeks ago, the Toronto Marlies had to wait until the final day of the American Hockey League schedule before knowing who they would play in the first round of the playoffs.

Five teams fought for the last four positions in the Western Conference and, when all was said and done, it was the Rochester Americans (Buffalo Sabres affiliate) who came out as the seventh seed and Toronto's first-round opponent.

Game 1 is Thursday at Toronto's Ricoh Coliseum.

"The good thing with Rochester is we've played them a bunch of times and we're familiar with them," said Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins. "I expect every game to be a one-goal game, a low scoring series, tight checking and a little gritty."

Rochester (36-26-14), a North-Division foe, played the Marlies (44-24-8) 10 times in the regular season. Toronto went 7-3-0 and every contest was decided by one goal, including four that went to overtime or shootout.

In total, Toronto played in 37 one-goal games this season, going 18-12-7.

"Our group has gone through so many one-goal games that they have a quiet confidence in them," said Eakins. "That bodes well for the playoffs."

Unlike years past, the AHL changed this year's first-round matchups to a best of five-game series rather than the normal seven.

Regardless, the change doesn't seem to be something that will affect Eakins and his club.

"I never looked at them, even as a player, as a seven or five-game series," said Eakins. "It's always been five one-game series. You never want to get up 2-0 and get comfortable. You just have to win each game and that's what I'll tell the group."

This is the first time the Marlies have qualified for the post-season since 2009 when they bowed out to the Manitoba Moose in the first round. Only captain Ryan Hamilton, Jay Rosehill, Andrew Martens and Josh Engel remain from that squad.

Unlike 2009, when Toronto battled their way in as a sixth-place team, this Marlies team is the second seed and has three major attributes they will rely on for a deep run in the playoffs: penalty killing, goaltending and veteran leadership.

All season they boasted the league's top penalty kill and finished with an efficiency rate of 88. …

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