April 23, 2011

NLL Week 16 Floor Pass: Previews, Audio

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com

The final week of the regular season has arrived. The National Lacrosse League playoffs begin next weekend, and all eight playoff teams are set. The only piece left to set is the host team for the No.2-No. 3 first round matchup in the West. Will it be Washington or Minnesota?

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

Rochester Knighthawks (9-6) at Buffalo Bandits (10-5), 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Buffalo clinched the East title and the top seed in the playoffs last weekend, despite losing to Boston, 16-9. That's because Toronto also lost to Edmonton, 18-14, meaning Buffalo finished first and Toronto second.

Still, Buffalo head coach Darris Kilgour was none too pleased when talking about the loss to Boston. He channeled his inner Mike Valenti, circa 2006 Michigan State radio rant [LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWmXe1w6XBk], when talking about the Bandits' effort, especially from the defense, which Kilgour called "absolutely atrocious."

"You know what, that's one of those games, it was actually so bad that you pretty much can wipe it away and say you know what, we're not going to have the three phases of our game play that bad on one night again, or at least I hope not," Kilgour said. "Mikey (Thompson, goaltender) didn't have his 'A' game, the defense was absolutely atrocious in front of him, and the offense was very stagnant and really didn't produce many scoring chances. We really count on our defense and our goaltending and the defense really let us down, which put Mikey in a bad spot. And they shot really well. So we're not too worried about it, but at the same time, we definitely looked at the tape, and we went over a lot of little things with the guys.

"It was just guys not focused on their job. I think after the big weekend with Toronto and Rochester, that affected us before that weekend, and it affected us after that weekend. Before the weekend, we were unfocused against Washington, ended up blowing the game late. And after we had that really big weekend, I think we took a really big, deep breath and said, 'Oh, man, we got through it,' and just sort of didn't focus going into that game."

"We'll be resting some guys," Kilgour said of Saturday against Rochester, "but that doesn't mean we're not playing to win, that we don't want everybody sharp. After the game we played last weekend, there's obviously some work to do. ... Coming off the debacle of what was Boston, we're definitely going to be motivated."

Listen to Rochester coach Mike Hasen talk about the matchup with Buffalo, what's worked for Rochester the second half of the season, the approach for this game, the offense, Jay Thorimbert and what the Knighthawks need to do to beat Buffalo.

Listen to Buffalo coach Darris Kilgour talk about the Bandits' approach to the final game with the East locked up and give a long explanation on Buffalo's loss to Boston last week.

Colorado Mammoth (5-10) at Minnesota Swarm (7-8), 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Minnesota will play Washington in the first round of the playoffs for sure, it's just a matter of where and when. If the Swarm wins Saturday against Colorado, they earn the No. 2 seed in the West and will host Washington. If Minnesota loses, it will travel to Washington for the playoffs.

"For our whole organization, it's important that we have that home playoff game. It's something you set out as a goal when the season started. Our organization, our fans deserve it," Minnesota coach Mike Lines said.

The Swarm have beaten Colorado, 12-10 and 11-10 in overtime in two regular-season meetings so far, but Lines said he expects a different Mammoth team. And rightly so. The Mammoth have won three of their last four and are in the playoffs.

"They're vastly improved right now," Lines said. "The talent they have on that team, it's just a matter of them jelling together. Luckily for them, it's all coming together at the right time. They're peaking going into the playoffs."

Listen to Colorado coach Bob Hamley speak about the team heading into the playoffs, Ian Hawksbee and Brian Langtry.

Listen to Minnesota coach Mike Lines talk about the importance of this game, give a scouting report on the Mammoth [14:00-15:09] and examine Minnesota's defense.

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