ROCHESTER – The first step is complete. The Rochester Americans are ready to take the next one.
The Amerks' goal this season was to end the franchise playoff drought. They did, and the Buffalo Sabres' American Hockey League team starts the first round Friday. The Amerks will play a best-of-five series against the Syracuse Crunch, the affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"Obviously, that was the biggest step," Amerks coach Chris Taylor said of making the postseason. "Developing and getting to the playoffs at the same time is great. That's what we want, and that's what we want to create around here."
While the Sabres have gone seven years without a playoff appearance, the Amerks have ended their skid at three seasons. They'll play Friday and Saturday in Syracuse, and Wednesday in Rochester. If necessary, the teams will play April 27 in Rochester and April 28 in Syracuse.
"We believe in each other, and that's the biggest thing for me is that everybody believes in each other and everybody really likes each other," Taylor said in BlueCross Arena. "Our team is special right now, and I think that we can do a lot of different things."
The Amerks' lines and defense pairs Thursday at practice:
Alex Nylander-Colin Blackwell-Nick Baptiste
Danny O'Regan-Kevin Porter-Justin Bailey
C.J. Smith-Kyle Criscuolo-Seth Griffith
Garret Ross-Sean Malone-Hudson Fasching
Eric Cornel-Sahir Gill-Dalton Smith-Adam Krause
Brendan Guhle-Casey Nelson
Matt Tennyson-Zach Redmond
Andrew MacWilliam-Taylor Fedun
Nathan Paetsch-Stuart Percy-Will Borgen