Mar 22, 2013 / 12:51 pm
Despite a difference of 28 wins and 50 points in the standings the Kelowna Rockets are not taking the Seattle Thunderbirds lightly.
The two teams will open up round one of the Western Hockey League playoffs Friday night at Prospera Place. Game two goes Saturday, also in Kelowna.
While most pundits have the Rockets winning the series in four, head coach Ryan Huska says it won't be that easy.
“It's not (easy) especially this time of year. There's a bounce or a break or two and things are quite a bit different than what they might have been in the regular season,” says Huska.
“I think it's important for anybody who is looking towards a playoff run to respect everything about a series in front of you. That includes the opponent you are playing, it includes your own dressing room and the guy sitting beside you.”
Huska says the Rockets have to be prepared to play 60 minutes each night and be prepared for a seven game series.”
That may be easier said than done.
The Rockets won three of the four meetings between the two teams during the regular season.
The lone T-Bird win was a 4-2 victory in Seattle Dec. 1. The Rockets won the other three by a combined 16-6 margin.
The Rockets, who spread the scoring around all season with a club record 14 players with at least 10 goals, will have to rely on that depth and balance across all four lines more than ever with the loss of captain Colton Sissons for likely the balance of the playoffs.
Sissons was injured in game 71 in Vancouver.
Huska admits it's a big blow heading into the post season.
“When you lose a player of his stature both on and off the ice it's going to be a challenge for our group. One of the reasons why we wanted to be honest and up front with what is going on with Colton is we wanted to kind of deal with it and move on,” says Huska.
“The wonderful thing about our team this year is we've had everybody play in every situation. We haven't had to rely on him as much as maybe other teams rely on their key players.”
Huska says all 20 players in the line-up each night is being challenged to do more and pick up his (Sissons) slack.
Some of that added responsibility may fall on the shoulders of rookie Rourke Chartier who saw some time between Myles Bell and Dylen McKinlay while Sissons sat out with a concussion in December.
“Everything changes on a game to game basis but Rourke is a guy we do trust whether it's on the power-play, five-on-five or killing penalties – we do trust that if we had to use him in that situation we'd have no problem with it,” adds Huska.
“There likely will be some time that he will see there but, as I said, I think we have a lot of different centremen and a lot of different people we can use within that position that Colton used to fill.”
Following Saturday's second game the series will shift to Seattle for games three and four next Tuesday and Wednesday.
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