Blogs and Commentary

posted 04.25.2012 at 4.43 p.m. by Neil Stevens

NLL Weekend Preview: Regular Season Finale



It's simple: winner gets home floor and loser hits the road for first-round playoff game first weekend in May.

Rochester won the previous meetings, both in Philadelphia: 22-12 back on Jan. 14 and 11-8 on March 3.

''This is an opportunity to have another shot at them,'' says Wings GM-coach Johnny Mouradian.

Philadelphia is in a slump having lost four in a row including a 15-10 setback in Minnesota.

''We certainly played a game that statistically . . . we thought we played a solid game,'' said Mouradian. ''That game was a game we should have won and we're looking forward to showing we can win games.

''We'll approach [Saturday] like any other game. It's a must win, but so is every game after it. We'd love to host a playoff game. It's a goal we had at the start of the season. Toronto loses, we win, we're in first place.''

Wings rookie Kevin Crowley has been scoring less frequently during the slump. He took only four shots on goal in Minnesota.

''He needs to take eight to 10 shots, at least, every game,'' said Mouradian. ''We want him to come out full tilt on Saturday.''

Rochester is coming off a 14-9 loss in Buffalo,

''We need a better showing, especially at home,'' said coach Mike Hasen. ''We've just got to be bang-on and much better than we were last weekend.''

COLORADO (11-4) at MINNESOTA (8-7)

These same two teams will open the playoffs in Denver the first weekend in May so both want to make a winning statement this weekend.

Rather than resting star forward John Grant Jr., the Mammoth will use him to give him the chance to get the six points he needs to break the single-season NLL points record.

''He's had a great year,'' says head coach Bob Hamley. ''Momentum is a great thing and we want to continue to play well going forward. Junior is a big part of that.''

Colorado won both previous meetings: 20-14 at home Jan. 14, and 12-7 in St. Paul on Feb. 18, and Grant amassed 18 points.

''We'll look at those games and go through some of the things we didn't execute,'' says GM-coach Joe Sullivan.

As for Grant, ''If he gets his six points, great, as long as we win by one.''

Colorado is coming off a 14-11 home loss to Edmonton, while Minnesota slammed visiting Philadelphia 15-10 last weekend for its third win in a row.

TORONTO (8-7) at EDMONTON (6-9)

The Rock beat the Rush 12-8 in Toronto on April 7 in the only previous meeting this year.

Toronto, coming off a 16-13 win at Washington, can finish atop the East with a win or a Philadelphia loss in Rochester.

''Things didn't look so rosy a month ago so we're happy to be in the situation we are and hopefully we'll put in a good effort against a very improved Edmonton squad on Saturday night,'' Rock GM Terry Sanderson said during the league's weekly coaches' conference call Wednesday.

Edmonton, coming off a weekend split with a 14-11 win at Colorado followed by a 9-6 home loss to Calgary, already knows it will finish fourth in the West and go to Calgary for a playoff game. The Rush are 4-2 in their last six.

''Mission accomplished with the win on Friday,'' said GM-coach Derek Keenan. ''Now it's a new season for us and we hope to continue playing well this weekend against Toronto.''

Sanderson expects another close clash with the Rush.

''We've had trouble when we've played in Edmonton the last two or three seasons,'' he said. ''We're going to go out there and hopefully have a very good Toronto Rock showing.''

Balls have finally started falling into opponents' nets for Rock attacker Stephan Leblanc.

''The last two or three weeks his play has been outstanding,'' Sanderson said.

BUFFALO (6-9) at WASHINGTON (4-11)

This game has no ramifications for either team. Buffalo will finish third in the East if Rochester loses its game and fourth if Rochester wins regardless of what it does. The Bandits are coming off a 14-9 home win over Rochester. They've clinched a playoff spot -- finally.

''We're ecstatic,'' said associate GM Derek Graham.

Resting John Tavares and others with aches and pains this weekend is under consideration, he added.

Graham said goalie Mike Thompson has a strained medial collateral ligament in his left knee and, as was the case last weekend, will dress as backup to Anthony Cosmo but won't see any action. So, it looks as if it'll be Cosmo the rest of the way.

Washington's chance at making the playoffs vanished when it lost 16-13 at home to Toronto last Friday.

''It's a bitter pill to swallow,'' says head coach Chris Hall.

Washington won the only previous meeting 11-10 in overtime in Buffalo on Feb. 4.

''We want to finish the season on a positive note and start working towards next year,'' Hall added.