February 25, 2011

NLL Week 8 Floor Pass: All-Star Edition

by Corey McLaughlin | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Philadelphia transition man Max Seibald will play against Toronto on Saturday before suiting up for the East All-Stars on Sunday.

It's All-Star Weekend, but not an all-star break for every team. There are two regular season games Saturday night, and then all-stars from the four teams in action — Edmonton, Philadelphia, Rochester and Toronto — will travel to Verona, N.Y., about 30 minutes east of Syracuse, for the NLL All-Star Game at Turning Stone Resort Casino Sunday afternoon.

Here's a look at this weekend's All-Star game and two regular season games, including several sound bytes from Wednesday's conference call with coaches, including East All-Star coach Troy Cordingley and West coach Chris Hall. Check back to laxmagazine.com each week for game-by-game breakdowns and more audio from around the NLL. (All game times are local.)

All-Star Game: East vs. West, Sunday 2 p.m. in Verona, N.Y. (TV: Versus, live)

The NLL's annual showcase for the league's top players leaves the coaches as mainly spectators. Toronto's Troy Cordingley and Washington's Chris Hall will coach the East and West, respectively.

"For that game there will be no pressure," Cordingley said Wednesday, referencing the game that does have pressure, Toronto's game Saturday against Philadelphia. "I think Chris and I will have the best seats in the house."

Said Hall: "I loved watching the NBA All-Star Game. I took that in. It's a very similar style of game where there's not a heck of a lot of coaching that goes on. Only probably in the last two minutes when you try to devise some strategy on how to beat those guys on the other end."

Hall will coach several first-time all-stars, including starting forwards Scott Ranger (Calgary), Ryan Benesch (Minnesota) and defenseman Mike Grimes (Washington). Edmonton transition stud Brodie Merrill is the most experienced all-star, playing in his fifth game. Calgary defenseman Andrew McBride and Minnesota goaltender Nick Patterson will play in their second.

The West reserves are forwards Rhys Duch, Lewis Ratcliff and Luke Wiles (Washington), Callum Crawford (Minnesota) and John Grant (Colorado); transition players Jeff Shattler and Geoff Snider (Calgary), Paul Rabil (Washington) and Andrew Watt (Minnesota); defensemen Brett Mydske (Edmonton) and Mac Allen (Colorado), and goaltender Chris Levis (Colorado).

The East starting lineup is more experienced when it comes to all-star appearances. Colin Doyle (Toronto) and John Tavares (Buffalo) will each play in a league-record ninth contest. Doyle is a starting forward along with Casey Powell (Boston) and Mark Steenhius, who both are now seven-time all-stars. Rochester defenseman Pat McCready and Philadelphia goaltender Brandon Miller make their second game and Buffalo defenseman Chris White his third.

The East reserves are forwards Dan Dawson and Josh Sanderson (Boston), Tavares and Brett Bucktooth (Buffalo), Garrett Billings (Toronto), Shawn Evans and Cody Jamieson (Rochester); transition player Max Seibald (Philadelphia); defensemen Sandy Chapman (Toronto), Sid Smith (Rochester) and Kyle Rubisch (Boston), and goaltender Anthony Cosmo (Boston).

Cosmo replaced Toronto goaltender Bob Watson on the East team. Watson has work commitments Sunday as a police officer in Waterloo, Ontario. He will play in the Rock's game Saturday at Philadelphia.

Listen to East coach Troy Cordingley talk about the all-star game, why goaltender Bob Watson isn't playing, the grind of this weekend, Colin Doyle, and coaching players who are opponents during the season.

Listen to West coach Chris Hall talk about the all-star game experience, coaching several first time all-stars, and his thoughts on coaching players he faces during the season.

Edmonton Rush (2-6) at Rochester Knighthawks (4-4), Saturday 7:35 p.m.

This is the first of Rochester's three home games it will play the second half of the season. Knighthawks coach Mike Hasen stopped short of saying it's a must-win, like some of Rochester's earlier season games. But he would like to take advantage of the home arena.

"We're getting to the last half and it would be nice to start off with a home win," he said. "We don't have that many home games left. We have to take care of our home rink."

They'll face Edmonton, a team reeling after its third one-goal loss this season, a 12-11 defeat to Calgary.

"We have to figure out ways to win those games," Edmonton coach Derek Keenan said. "We certainly had our opportunities. At 11-all we had the goalie down on his knees and we hit the crossbar and a minute later, they scored the winner. That's the nature of this league. There are a lot of those games. We need to start winning more than our share of them if we're going to climb back into the standings."

Rush forward Scott Evans, traded from Rochester to Edmonton earlier this season, faces his former team for the first time. He had five goals last week in the loss to Calgary, and Hasen is expecting an inspired effort. "He's got something to prove to us," Hasen said.

Listen to Edmonton coach Derek Keenan talk about the Rush's latest one-goal loss, former Knighthawk Scott Evans now facing his former team and Edmonton's all-stars.

Listen to Rochester coach Mike Hasen on heading into all-star weekend at .500, the matchup with Edmonton, Rochester's all-stars and if this game is must-win.

Toronto Rock (7-2) at Philadelphia Wings (4-4), Saturday 8 p.m.

Every week the coach opposing Toronto seems to talk up the Rock as the best team in the NLL.

"This is our must difficult challenge of the year," Philadelphia coach John Tucker said Wednesday.

Prior to Calgary's most recent meeting with Toronto, Roughnecks coach Dave Pym just flat out called the Rock the best team in the league.

Every week Toronto tries to downplay the comments.

"I appreciate Mr. Tucker's kind words and all that, but they have our full attention," Rock general manager and assistant coach Terry Sanderson said. "We're putting a lot of importance on this game."

"I don't think there's any fear of us going into Philly overconfident," Sanderson said. "The Wings beat a Boston team that handed us a loss and beat Buffalo. Buffalo beat us. I don't know any team and any staff that would allow themselves to go in and be overconfident."

Philadelphia and Toronto will play two weekends in a row.

"In front of us we have the best team in the league, twice in a row within six days," Tucker said. "It's going to be a very difficult task for us."

Listen to Toronto general manager/assistant coach Terry Sanderson talk about the matchup with Philadelphia, the powerplay and the importance of this game heading into the second half of the season.

Listen to Philadelphia coach John Tucker on the Wings being .500 at midpoint of the season, the powerplay, Dan Hardy and trying to defend Toronto's offense.

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