ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Amerks embark on a new playoff run on Friday against Syracuse, which will be the first for Jiri Kulich and Isak Rosén, Sabres first-round picks in 2022 and 2021, respectively.
Playoff hockey is a different animal in North America compared to Europe, so Amerks head coach Seth Appert told them to watch the first couple of games of the NHL playoffs to get them prepared.
“[Kulich] watched Toronto and Tampa last night,” said Appert. “I said ‘So what did you think?’ He says ‘too many skins.’ We call getting a piece of people, getting a skin on somebody. So it was a pretty funny response. He was acknowledging that the physicality goes up.”
“You can prepare them all you want but then game one happens and you get hit in the face and then you react,” added Appert.
“It’s the games that matter,” said Rosén. “If you want to play a long career, you have to be good in playoff games because that’s the players NHL teams want. I’m just excited to be going into playoffs and it’s going to be so fun.”
The Amerks earned a first-round bye thanks to a ten-game point streak that started in late March, but Appert says that push was building for a while.
“I think that 25 games ago our young guys stopped playing like young guys,” said Appert. “They stopped playing like rookies. So it doesn’t mean they’re perfect, but they had fewer nights that they looked like they were in over their head. And I think collectively, our group made a more concerted effort to be good defensively. And when you are good defensively, your offense comes with it.”
The two rivals are about as evenly matched as they come, with each team winning six games in the regular season and four of the last five matchups going to overtime.
“We know each other pretty well but we know that it’s going to be a battle,” said defenseman Ethan Prow. “The regular season is a battle with them and this playoff series is going to be no different. They’re a great team. We’ve got a great team. The crowds are going to be great. It’s setting up for a great series.”
The Amerks are dealing with a handful of injuries at forward, such as Brandan Biro and Brendan Warren, who are both not expected to play this weekend. However, Kulich and Tyson Kozak are both trending towards “probable” according to Appert.
The first two games of the series are in Syracuse with game three in Rochester on Friday, April 28th with a potential game four on Sunday, April 30th. A decisive game five would be played on Saturday, May 6th.