Blogs and Commentary

posted 01.31.2013 at 3.19 p.m. by Neil Stevens

NLL Week 5 Preview: East Lead On the Line

The Toronto Rock roll into Buffalo to battle the Bandits with first place in the National Lacrosse League's East Division on the line. Here's a glance at the four games, all on Saturday night, on the Week 5 schedule:


TORONTO (4-1) at BUFFALO (3-1), 7:30 p.m. ET

TV/Online: TSN in Canada, ESPN3 in U.S., NLL on YouTube outside North America

Toronto opened with wins in Calgary and Edmonton, lost by a goal at home to Philadelphia, and rebounded last weekend with wins of 13-12 at home over Minnesota and 11-7 at Rochester. This will be the first game against Buffalo since the Rock rallied from a 6-2 halftime deficit to edge the Bandits 7-6 in the East semifinal in Toronto last spring. Goaltender Nick Rose was fabulous in that one, and he's been fabulous so far this season.

Rock defenseman Chris White plays his first game in First Niagara Center since leaving the Bandits as a free agent.

''Things are going well,'' White said of the gelling process with his new teammates. ''On the defensive end, we're starting to come together. I'm getting a better feel for the guys around me and the same for them. Overall, I think we've been doing a good job back there.''

Buffalo lost its opener at Philadelphia and has since won three in a row — 13-12 at home over Minnesota, 14-13 at Rochester and 14-13 at home against Philadelphia.

''We're making some plays when we have to make them,'' Bandits coach Darris Kilgour said of all the one-goal wins. ''We're getting production this year from six or seven guys instead of two or three guys.''

Captain John Tavares hurt a calf muscle last weekend and will sit out Saturday, Kilgour divulged during the league's weekly coaches' conference call Wednesday.

Defenseman Billy Dee Smith returned to the lineup last weekend after missing the first three Bandits games due to a suspension and a high ankle sprain.

''We've been good enough to win some games but there's room for improvement,'' Smith said.

WASHINGTON (3-2) at ROCHESTER (0-3), 8 p.m. ET

TV/Online: NLL on YouTube

This is the second meeting this season. The Stealth won 13-12 at home on Jan. 5. They met once last year, on Feb. 18 in Rochester, and the Knighthawks won that one 16-14.

Washington followed its win over the 'Hawks with a big win in Denver over the Mammoth, split two with Edmonton, and then lost 15-14 at Minnesota last weekend.

''We're pretty happy with where we are right now as opposed to where we were a year ago,'' Stealth coach Chris Hall said. ''Rochester is obviously going to present a big challenge for us. We expect them to be fired up at home looking for their first victory so it'll be a tough game. They've got a ton of firepower. We know that.''

The Stealth will again rely heavily on faceoff specialist Bob Snider.

''If you can get first possession 70 percent of the time, it's a real momentum changer,'' Snider said.

Rochester dropped one-goal decisions at Washington and at home against Buffalo before being pelted 11-7 by the Rock last Saturday.

''We haven't executed as well as we would have liked to,'' Rochester forward Dan Dawson said ''We have to stop settling for the outside shot and get to those dirty areas in front of the net.''

One thing is certain, adds Dawson: ''Starting 0-4 is not an option.''

MINNESOTA (1-2) at COLORADO (1-2), 9 p.m. ET

TV/Online: Altitude, NLL on YouTube

This is the first meeting since last May 5 when the Swarm went into Denver and won a first-round playoff game 14-10.

''We know it's going to be a battle but we're looking forward to getting back at it,'' Mammoth defenseman Dan Coates said.

Colorado lost its opener by four at home against Washington, eked out a 13-12 OT thriller in Calgary, and lost again at home, 19-12 against Calgary, last Saturday.

The Mammoth have released veteran goalie Chris Levis and have re-signed goalie Dan Lewis. Allowing a league-high 16 goals a game forced a move. Coach Bob Hamley says everybody has to pitch in to get back to winning ways.

''Let's make no mistake: the coaching staff is very confident in the 23 players we have,'' Hamley said. ''We have to play better. It's as simple as that.''

Minnesota lost its first two by 13-12 scores in Buffalo and Toronto and got its first win, 15-14 at home against Washington, last Saturday. Now its on to Denver.

''They're hungry and so are we so I think it's going to be a great game,'' captain Andrew Suitor said.

Suitor and Mammoth scoring star John Grant Jr. are summer teammates in Peterborough, Ontario.

''There's no stopping Junior,'' Suitor said. ''We just have to contain him and we'll try our best to do that.''

CALGARY (2-2) at EDMONTON (1-2), 9 p.m. ET

TV/Online: Sportsnet One in Canada, NLL on YouTube elsewhere

This will be the first meeting since last May 5 when the Rush shocked the Roughnecks 19-11 in a first-round playoff game. In regular-season play, Calgary has come out on top in all of the last eight meetings.

''We need to learn how to beat these guys in the regular season,'' Rush GM-coach Derek Keenan said.

Edmonton lost its opener at home by a goal to Toronto, went to Washington and won 18-10, but lost 12-10 at home against the Stealth last Saturday.

''We know what we're capable of and we need to show that to the rest of the league,'' Rush defenseman Chris Corbeil said.

Rush players might have got too worked up to play their provincial rivals in the past, added Corbeil.

''The plan for us this weekend is to approach it as if they're just another team,'' he said.

Rush have released veteran forward Tom Johnson and activated rookie defenseman Michael Cudmore.

Calgary played its first two games at home and lost to Toronto and Colorado before winning 19-12 in Denver and 16-8 in Philadelphia last weekend.

''We're happy with the four points on the road,'' said head coach Curt Malawsky. ''We played a little more disciplined that we did in our first two games.''

Shawn Evans of the 'Necks has an NLL-best 31 points.

''He's a fierce competitor and a great leader on and off the floor,'' said Malawsky. ''His compete level is second to none. He's been the glue to our offense.''