February 4, 2011

NLL Week 5 Floor Pass: Previews, Audio

by Corey McLaughlin | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Rochester has lost its first two home games, a trend it hopes to reverse with four of its next five games at Blue Cross Arena.

© Rich Barnes

National Lacrosse League fantasy players might find themselves with tough roster decisions this week as the Edmonton Rush and Calgary Roughnecks both have byes. An abbreviated four-game schedule is on tap for Week 5.

Here's a look at the games, including several sound bytes from Wednesday's conference call with coaches. Check back to laxmagazine.com each week for game-by-game breakdowns and more audio from around the NLL. (All game times are local.)

Minnesota Swarm (3-1) at Buffalo Bandits (2-2), Friday, 7:30 p.m.

The Swarm is somewhat of a surprise West Division leader, coming off a 5-11 finish in 2010. But Minnesota has confidence now, coach Mike Lines said, and it starts in goal with Nick Patterson and builds out through the defense. Patterson is second in the league in save percentage (81.6) and third in goals against average (9.05).

That's good news for the Swarm, which knew it had a potent offense returning in Callum Crawford, Aaron Wilson and Ryan Benesch.

Buffalo is coming off an 8-5 loss to Toronto in which the Bandits had a team-record 80 penalty minutes. Angus Goodleaf got the start in goal, giving Mike Thompson a breather, and had a great game with 28 saves and an 80-percent save percentage.

"Angus was great. He really only gave up seven goals. To give up seven is a pretty good start in the NLL," Bandits assistant coach Rich Kilgour said. "Mike is our No. 1, but they're both going good right now and either one would do just fine."

A milestone may also be reached Friday. Buffalo's John Tavares, the NLL's all-time leading scorer, needs three goals to reach 700 for his career.

Philadelphia Wings (3-2) at Rochester Knighthawks (2-2), Saturday 2 p.m.

The Wings are another surprise team with a boost from a goaltender, Brandon Miller. Miller is the league leader in save percentage (82.5) and GAA (8.80) if you throw out Angus Goodleaf's one start. After starting 0-2, Miller has helped the Wings win three in a row. They swept last weekend, winning in Boston, 11-5, Friday and beating Colorado, 12-11, Saturday.

"It's been a wild journey so far," Tucker said. "It seems like we played a full season already, but we realize we're only five games into this thing."

Meanwhile, Rochester is looking for their first win at home and was shellacked in Rochester, 17-6, by Boston last weekend.

"Almost everything broke down for us," Knighthawks coach Mike Hasen said, and if that wasn't bad enough he said the reason was an overall lack of competitiveness. They need a turnaround with four of their next five games coming at home.

Listen to Philadelphia coach John Tucker assess the Wings' season to date = and talk about what went right in their three wins.

Listen to Rochester coach Mike Hasen talk about the disappointment of losing its first two home games, why it's happened, and how important their next streak of four of five games at home is.

Washington Stealth (2-3) at Colorado Mammoth (1-3), Saturday 7 p.m.

These are two teams coming off one-goal losses, but each has a different attitude.

Washington coach Chris Hall said he was generally pleased with the effort from this team in an 11-10 overtime loss to Minnesota last week, but that five of six offensive players were 3 for 50 shooting.

"You're not going to win too many games when you're shooting like that," Hall said. "Even having said that, we were in a position to win the game. ... When we get a good look we need to bury the ball, and we'll be addressing that in practice."

All four of Colorado's games this season have been decided by one goal, and coach Bob Hamley wasn't as optimistic about its recent most recent loss, a 12-11 defeat to Philadelphia.

"We didn't play a full 60 minutes," he said, as they had to recover from a 10-4 halftime deficit.

Listen to Washington coach Chris Hall talk about the Stealth's shooting woes last week, how to break out of the slump and if Washington can take anything from it first meeting with Colorado and use it in this game.

Listen to Colorado coach Bob Hamley talk about the season to date andhis thoughts on one-goal games.

Toronto Rock (4-1) at Boston Blazers (3-3), Saturday 7:30 p.m.

Boston looked bad against Philadelphia last Friday, and great against Rochester Saturday. The Blazers will need to be at least somewhere in between if they are to beat Toronto for the first time ever at TD Garden. Boston is 1-5 all-time against the Rock, with the lone winning coming on the road.

In their first meeting this year, Toronto beat Boston, 15-14, in overtime. What does Rock head coach Troy Cordingley take from that game? Not visions of the Big Three (and now Four), but memories of Kevin Buchanan. Buchanan scored five goals and had three assists for Boston, took 16 shots with 12 of them on goal.

"Buchanan ... has an unbelievable shot," Cordingley said. "I'm not going to say it took us by surprise but we had a little bit of focus on their other guys. We know Boston's offense is extremely smart. They have some very good players that see the floor well. We're going to have to be smart and make proper decisions defensively."

Listen to Toronto coach Troy Cordingley talk about the return of Garrett Billings from a wrist injury, the impact of Ryan Sharp and the rematch with Boston.

Listen to Boston coach Matt Sawyer talk about recent additions to the roster, specifically defenseman Ryan Dilks, and the roster status of John Orsen.

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