Blogs and Commentary

posted 02.28.2013 at 11.23 a.m. by Neil Stevens

Key Divisional Matchups Add Intrigue to NLL Week 9

All nine teams will be in action. Buffalo plays twice. Some key divisional matchups supply intrigue.


BUFFALO (4-3) AT TORONTO (6-2), 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: Lacrosse Network

Both teams had a bye last weekend and get together for a rare weeknight game.

''It was a very well-received weekend off,'' said Rock GM Terry Sanderson. ''I know the boys appreciated it.''

The Bandits can move within one-half a game of the first-place Rock, or fall three back.

''They've got a lot of new faces on their back end so every game they get more dangerous,'' Rock forward Garrett Billings said of the Bandits.

''Their power play is unbelievable right now so we have to stay out of the box,'' said Bandits coach Darris Kilgour.

In one previous meeting this season, Toronto won 14-12 in Buffalo on Feb. 2. This will be the Bandits' first game in Toronto since losing the East semi 7-6 last April.

John Tavares is expected back in Buffalo's lineup after missing the last three games with a strained calf muscle.

''He looked really good last practice,'' Kilgour said during the league's weekly conference call Wednesday. ''He'll be in (the lineup) against Toronto.''


TV: Lacrosse Network

Last weekend, the Wings rallied from a 4-0 deficit to win 10-8 in Rochester and they then beat Colorado 14-12 at home.

''The intensity we played with last weekend was a notch higher than it had been in the past,'' said Wings forward Drew Westervelt.

The teams split two earlier meetings as the Wings won at home 13-8 on Jan. 11 and the Bandits won 14-13 at home on Jan. 26. The winner of this one gets the standings tiebreaker.

''It's going to be an intense game,'' said Wings GM-coach Johnny Mouradian.

''They're probably our oldest rival and every time we play them it's a challenge,'' said Kilgour.

Buffalo forward Mark Steenhuis said that, after all the offseason personnel changes, he and his teammates are feeling as if they are gelling as they head into their schedule's halfway point. They're coming off a big win in Rochester.

''All the guys are buying in right now,'' Steenhuis said. ''We want to carry that momentum into the biggest weekend of our season so far.''


ROCHESTER (3-5) AT COLORADO (2-5), 9 p.m. ET
TV: Altitude 2, Lacrosse Network

This is the only game between these teams this year. They met twice in 2012 and Colorado won both times. They didn't meet in 2010 or in 2011. Last time Rochester beat the Mammoth was in April 2009 in Denver.

Rochester is coming off a 10-8 home loss to Philadelphia.

Colorado lost its third in a row last weekend, 14-12 in Philadelphia, and subsequently released veteran goalie Matt Roik in deciding to go with two younger players with limited experience.

''Obviously, it just didn't work out,'' said head coach Bob Hamley. ''The future for Dan Lewis and Tye Belanger is being sped up. The future is now.''

Mammoth star John Grant Jr. is as restless as his teammates.

''We're nowhere near where we want to be,'' said Grant. ''We have to focus on playing a more consistent 60 minutes.''

Rochester has been in a similar boat.

''We've played good at times and been bad at other times,'' said forward Cory Vitarelli.

A road game might be just the tonic the defending champs need.

''We've seemed to struggle at home this year,'' said Vitarelli.

EDMONTON (4-5) AT CALGARY (5-4), 9 p.m. ET
TV: SportsnetOne, Lacrosse Network

Plenty at stake here as the Rush can move into a tie with their Alberta rival or fall two games back.

Edmonton split two games with Minnesota last weekend, losing 13-8 at home and winning 14-9 in St. Paul. The Rush have won three of their last four.

''We've got a little bit of momentum behind us,'' said Edmonton GM-coach Derek Keenan.

But Edmonton hasn't beaten Calgary in regular-season play in three years.

''It's been too long,'' said Keenan. ''It's been painful at times. We need to get in there and get a win, that's for sure.''

This is the third of four meetings. Calgary won 18-15 in Edmonton on Feb. 2 and 9-8 at home on Feb. 9.

''It's always a war, always a battle, and it usually comes down to last shot wins,'' said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky.

Calgary is coming off a 16-14 loss at Washington.


TV: Lacrosse Network)

Washington, coming off a 16-14 home win over Calgary, needs another win to retain at least a share of first place in the West.

''It's certainly a lot better position than we were in last year,'' Stealth coach Chris Hall said of his team's lofty perch. ''We've got ourselves in a healthy position. It's in our hands now to try and play well and stay at the top of the division. We're looking for some consistency so we can string some wins together.''

Minny's split with Edmonton last weekend was accompanied by the loss of captain Andrew Suitor, who is done for the season with a damaged knee ligament.

''It's a huge loss for us, especially because of the intangibles Andrew brings for us,'' said teammate Callum Crawford.

This is the second of three meetings. The Swarm won 15-14 at home on Jan. 26.

''It's a huge game for both sides,'' said Crawford, who is wearing the captain's C in Suitor's absence.