April 26, 2012

NLL Notebook: Grant Won't Rest With Chance For Scoring Record

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

With Colorado's playoff matchup already set in stone, John Grant Jr. could rest this Saturday. But, just six points shy of breaking the NLL's single-season scoring record, he will play, says Mammoth GM Steve Govett.
© Colorado Mammoth

You are Colorado general manager Steve Govett and you have a decision to make.

The Mammoth finish the regular season at Minnesota on Saturday and you know that first-round National Lacrosse League playoff matchups are already set with the Mammoth to play the Swarm in Denver the following weekend.

So, do you rest star forward John Grant Jr. or do you give him the opportunity to get the six points he needs to break the single-season scoring record of 115?

Govett doesn't hesitate.

''Grant will play in Minnesota,'' he says.

Grant deserves the league MVP award with or without the record.

Gavin Prout sat out the 14-11 home loss to Edmonton last Friday with what the team describes as a ''lower body injury'' and he will not play in St. Paul, head coach Bob Hamley said Wednesday.

The Colorado-Minnesota clash at 7:30 p.m. EDT is the CBS Sports game of the week.

Doyle At His Best

Colin Doyle, who was slowed midseason by a shoulder injury, is in outstanding form as he leads the Rock into the playoffs.

Toronto's captain scored two goals and assisted on three in a 16-13 road win over Washington last Friday night, which increased his career total to 1,170 points. He moved past Hall of Famer Gary Gait (1,165) into second all-time behind Buffalo's John Tavares (1,622).

Three other active players are the only other members of the 1,000 Point Club: Colorado's John Grant Jr. (1,087), Toronto's Josh Sanderson (1,076) and Edmonton's Shawn Williams (1,035).

Wings Panic? No Way

The Philadelphia Wings have slipped to 7-8 in losing four in a row _ two to Minnesota and one to each of Colorado and Buffalo _ but there's no hint of panic as they prepare to go into Rochester, N.Y., on Saturday to battle the Knighthawks for second place in the East Division and a first-round home playoff date.

''We need to take care of the little things _ loose balls, unforced efforts, finishing scoring opportunities,'' says forward Drew Westervelt. ''We are making mistakes that are costing us games but the good thing is that they are correctable.

''We have identified areas we can improve and will spend the remainder of the week working to address them. We are all anxious to get back on the floor this weekend.''

High Hits Rile Keenan

Zack Greer, Edmonton's top goal scorer, was hurt late in a 14-11 win over Colorado in Denver last Friday. With just under four minutes remaining, Rory Smith struck Greer high after Greer took a shot. No penalty was assessed.

Rush GM-coach Derek Keenan, angered by the hit on Greer and by sticks also getting up on John LaFontaine and Tom Johnson in the fourth quarter, kicked a towel after the hit on Greer and was ejected. Keenan has been behind NLL benches for many years so one need not have to guess about the depth of his anger that resulted in his first ejection.

Greer missed his team's home game on Saturday, a 9-6 loss to Calgary, and his status remains unclear for the regular-season finale at home against Toronto this Saturday.

Buffalo's Tracey Kelusky was back in action last weekend after missing three games with a head injury caused by an opponent delivering an uppercut with a gloved fist on a pick play. No penalty was assessed.

Rock forward Dan Carey has sat out three games since being hit high. Buffalo goalie Ken Montour had to take the entire 2012 season off. The list goes on and on.

How many careers are going to be jeopardized or ended before something is done to reduce the excessive number of damaging high hits?

New Life For Bandits

That 14-9 home win over Rochester last Saturday was huge for the Buffalo Bandits as it lifted them into the playoffs and in so doing rendered disposable the angst of a disappointing regular season that included a six-game losing streak.

''It's been frustrating to say the least,'' says forward Tracey Kelusky.

But it's a new ball game for the 6-9 Bandits now. Eight teams still have a shot at the Champion's Cup, and they are one of them.

''Our record isn't indicative of the club we have,'' says Kelusky. ''We were confident in the group we have and that we could turn things around. We definitely didn't want to go into the last game in Washington this weekend with only a 50-50 chance of making the playoffs.''

Buffalo will finish third or fourth in the East, and they don't really care who they face when the playoffs begin. They had their biggest offensive night of the year in Toronto, winning 21-14 on March 16. They pummelled Philadelphia 17-7 in Buffalo on April 7. They took the season series against Rochester.

''Anything can happen in a one-game showdown,'' says Kelusky. ''We have a lot of experience in our locker room. We have two of the best goalies in the business and that's a big piece of the puzzle heading into a one-game situation. We've lived and learned all year. Now we have a fresh start and we're looking forward to it.

''We're going to throw our season's record out the window. We'll concentrate on the Buffalo Bandits. We've been our biggest enemy all year. We'll have to bring everything we can and it has to be 18 runners and a couple of goalies buying into what we're doing.''

No Big Advantage For Calgary

Finishing first overall in the overall standings gives the Calgary Roughnecks home floor as far as they go in the playoffs, but don't give that too much importance.

The 'Necks are 5-3 at home, while they've played their best lacrosse on the road in compiling a 7-1 record.

Their first-round opponent will be Edmonton and the 'Necks won all four games against their Alberta rivals this season. They've won nine in a row and are 20-4 all-time versus the Rush. Now, while this trend suggests that a Calgary win on the first weekend in May is a sure thing, keep in mind that the regular-season champions are susceptible at home and that Edmonton has come on strong in the last month. Also, No. 1 Calgary goalie Mike Poulin has been out with an ankle injury and, if he's fit for the playoffs, he'll have seen no game action for a month.

Shawn Evans Top 'Necks Scoring

That draft day deal Calgary pulled off with Rochester last September to get Shawn Evans for the fifth overall pick (Johnny Powless) is looking mighty good for the 'Necks as they rest up for their playoff opener. Evans came through with a team-best 79 points including 32 goals during the 16-game regular season.

Swarm Player in Teammate' Thoughts

There was a patch bearing 16 on Minnesota Swarm sweaters during the 15-10 home win over Philadelphia in honor of teammate Joe Wasson. The 22-year-old defenseman from Peterborough, Ontario, was recently diagnosed with cancer. The club thought enough of the free agent last December to sign him to a three-year contract, and now this.

Neil Stevens has covered pro and Canadian lacrosse since 1971. He and the late Tom Borrelli -- a longtime Lacrosse Magazine contributor -- are the only media members recognized by the NLL Hall of Fame.

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