February 26, 2009

NLL Week 9 Notebook: Steenhuis Suffers Undisclosed Injury

by Theresa Smith | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Buffalo Bandits star Mark Steenhuis is questionable for Saturday's game against Minnesota and the March 7 NLL All-Star Game after being injured in the third quarter of a Week 8 game against Rochester.
© Buffalo Bandits

As impressive as Mark Steenhuis' play was at the end of the Buffalo-Toronto game last Friday -- he scored two late goals to send it into overtime, then buried the game-winner 46 seconds into OT -- consider that the Bandits' star was playing hurt.

The National Lacrosse League's leading scorer was injured in the third quarter of the 17-16 victory. He sought treatment for the undisclosed ailment and returned to the floor.

Steenhuis is questionable for Saturday's game against Minnesota and for the All-Star game on March 7 at Denver's Pepsi Center.

"He is very sore; we're going to be very cautious,'' said Buffalo coach Darris Kilgour.

Steenhuis' natural hat trick came amid the game's most pressured moments.

"That is pretty rare. I can't name how many times I've ever seen that,'' Kilgour said. "I think the bigger question mark would be, ‘How did he get open for the last two shots of the game?' When you got a guy shooting that hard, I probably would have paid a little more attention to him and Johnny [Tavares].

"But give Mark credit. He worked hard to get his opportunities and when he got his opportunities, he buried them in the most clutch situations.''

Steenhuis finished with eight goals and two assists, and Tavares scored six goals with one helper.

In the past two games, Steenhuis has scored 12 goals with 15 assists to set a sizzling pace to erase career bests set last season: 75 points, including 34 goals in 15 games.

In eight games this season, he has scored 31 goals on a career-best .231 shooting percentage, has 33 assists and scooped 60 loose balls, tying Boston rookie Daryl Veltman for the NLL lead in loose balls among top 25 scorers.

It is the best stretch the 28-year-old Steenhuis has ever put together, according to Kilgour, citing increased maturity.

"I think he's really seeing the big picture now,'' Kilgour said. "I never considered him selfish before. I think he thought he was the best option on the floor at that time. Most of the time he was correct, but at other times you need to keep teammates involved. He's done a lot better job of that this year, and hopefully, he'll continue to improve.''

Playing with the NLL's all-time leading goal scorer, Tavares, is a significant factor as well. Tavares scored six goals against the Rock and had one assist to maintain a well-balanced season summary of 22 goals on an amazing .301 shooting percentage -- the best in the league among top 25 scorers -- and 21 assists.

Powell Expected to Return for Titans

Casey Powell will probably return to the floor for back-to-back Titans' home games, against Calgary (5-2) on Saturday, and San Jose (3-4) on Sunday.

Powell missed a 15-7 loss to Rochester last Saturday, due to an unspecified injury that is not a concussion, according to New York coach Ed Comeau.

"As of now, I expect him to play both games,'' Comeau said. "As with most elite athletes, he has a good feel for his body. He felt he couldn't play -- he felt he wasn't ready to go... Casey plays the game real hard, plays real tough. He's just kind of a little banged up, and he had a busy work schedule and he felt he hadn't recovered from the week before.''

Stealth coach Jeff Dowling is expecting to see No. 22.

"Casey's a gamer,'' Dowling said. "He's played for me before; we expect to see him in the lineup.''

Also along the Titans' injury front, Stephen Peyser and his brother, Greg, are questionable due to undisclosed injuries.

Iannucci Back with a Bang

Another major development last week involved the return of 2008 NLL Most Valuable Player Athan Iannucci.

The Philadelphia star tirelessly rehabilitated his knee after surgery and tried to make a comeback on Jan. 23, but left the floor in the first quarter.

Last Saturday's return lasted the entire contest, a 13-12 thriller over Minnesota (2-5), with A.I. netting the game-winner.

Injecting energy, hope and confidence into a Wings' team that improved to 3-5, Iannucci finished with three goals and two assists.

"He scored three goals and he averaged five last season, so I guess he's at 60 percent,'' quipped Wings coach Dave Huntley. "It was great to have him back.'' Teammate Geoff Snider was spectacular in all areas. He dominated the 'X,' winning 22 of 29 faceoffs, snagging 25 loose balls and scoring two goals with two assists. Moreover, he stayed out of the penalty box.

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