TORONTO -- The Toronto Marlies are hoping they learned from last year's post-season experience as they enter their second round matchup against the Chicago Wolves on Friday.
Toronto swept the Rochester Americans in the first round of the 2013 Calder Cup playoffs, had eight days off before the second round, dropped Game 1 against the Grand Rapids Griffins 7-0 at Ricoh Coliseum and eventually lost the series in six games.
The Marlies are currently on a six-day break following their first round sweep of the Milwaukee Admirals.
"That's something we didn't do very good last year," said Marlies starter Drew MacIntyre, who posted a .955 save percentage and a 1.55 goals-against average in the first round. "AHL playoffs is frustrating in that sense. You get long layoffs regardless and we've got to do a better job than we did last year."
Game 2 of the series goes Saturday before moving to Toronto May 14 for Games 3, 4, and 5 in a 2-3-2 format.
Toronto (45-25-6) went 1-1-0 in two meetings against the Midwest Division-winning Wolves (45-21-10) during the regular season.
Marlies goaltender Garrett Sparks, who started both games against Chicago during the regular season, grew up less than 18 kilometres from All State Arena, the home of the Wolves.
"They're very dynamic offensively, but we match up very well against them, our systems are very solid and we're going to have to do our best to neutralize them," said Sparks, who is expecting friends and family in attendance at the Chicago games. "If we play our game, ultimately we give ourselves the best chance to win."
One benefit of the six-day break for the Marlies is the opportunity for key forwards to get completely healthy. Both Peter Holland (lower body) and Spencer Abbott (shoulder) will make their post-season debut in Game 1. The pair, along with Carter Ashton who missed the first two games of the first round with a knee injury, skated on a line together Wednesday at the team's final practice before leaving Toronto.
The additions of Abbott and Holland could make decisions difficult for coach Steve Spott, who will likely have to scratch veterans.
"It's going to be tough," said Spott. "We're going to have to make sure that everyone is communicated to, we'll be honest, we'll be transparent and those guys will get their chances."
Spott is quite familiar with the Chicago Wolves coaching staff as coached Wolves coach John Anderson's son, Spencer, during his OHL days in Kitchener. The Marlies coach also played for Wolves assistant coach Dave Allison with the ECHL's Richmond Renegades during the 1990-91 season.
"I know it's going to be a tough series," said Spott. "They're dynamic, their skilled, they've got a great veteran presence, a goalie I know well in Jake Allen from our World Junior team -- arguably one of the top goalies in the American Hockey League.
"We're going to have to be smart, we're going to have to be structured in all three zones against this team because if we give up odd-man rushes and we take poor penalties they're going to capitalize."
Allen, who won the league's top goaltender award during the regular season, is 3-2-0 in five starts this post-season. He has a 2.85 goals-against average and a .890 save percentage.
Wolves forward Dmitrij Jaskin is the AHL's leading scorer after the first round with two goals and five assists in five games. Defenceman Brent Regner added six points in the five games to lead all Chicago blue-liners
Marlies' Jerry D'Amigo is tied for second in league scoring with six points in three games while captain Trevor Smith had five assists in the Milwaukee series.
"They're a veteran team, they have a lot of good guys," said D'Amigo, "but we're a strong team too so we're going to do our home work on them, we have these past few days and we're going to be ready to play on Friday."