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February 14, 2013

NLL Week 7 Preview: Division Leaders Meet in Toronto

First place in the overall National Lacrosse League standings will be at stake when the Calgary Roughnecks tangle with the Rock in Toronto. There are five games in all on the Week 7 of the schedule:

Friday

CALGARY (4-2) at TORONTO (5-2), 7:30 p.m. ET (TSN2 in Canada, ESPN3 in the U.S., YouTube)

First place overall is on the line.

''Home floor in the playoffs is a huge motivator for our team,'' said Rock defenseman Sandy Chapman. ''We have experienced the issues that can occur with travel in this league and many times dealing with them is out of our control. The more home games we are able to get, the more we are able to control.

''Plus, our fans are second to none and are capable of giving us that extra boost when it counts. As this season continues, the drive to guarantee as many home playoff games as possible is going to push our team weekly.''

Toronto is coming off a 13-12 OT loss in Minnesota last Friday.

Calgary is coming off a 9-8 home win over Edmonton that stretched its winning streak to four.

''It's a 100 percent buy-in from everybody,'' 'Necks faceoff specialist Geoff Snider said of the team's progress.

Dane Dobbie is expected to be back in the 'Necks lineup after missing last weekend's game.

''He's a guy who definitely gets big goals,'' said coach Curt Malawsky.

Dobbie isn't the only Calgary shooter Rock defenders will have to worry about.

''As a defenseman, my biggest concern is the depth and talent they have as an offensive unit,'' Chapman said. ''They have several players on both sides who are capable of taking over a game, as they showed last weekend.

''They are unselfish as a group and move the ball really well to create good [scoring] looks. Add to that the confidence they are playing with and we know that defensive errors we make are going to end up in the back of our net.''

In one previous meeting this year, Toronto won 13-11 in Calgary on Jan. 12.

WASHINGTON (4-3) at EDMONTON (1-4), 9 p.m. ET (YouTube)

This is the third meeting this year. Edmonton won 18-10 in Everett on Jan. 20 and Washington won 12-10 in Edmonton on Jan. 25.

Washington is coming off a 13-6 home win over Colorado last Saturday when goaltender Tyler Richards was sensational for the second game in a row.

''We're pretty happy about how we're playing right now,'' said head coach Chris Hall.

The rebuilt Stealth defense has been improving game by game.

''They're aggressive, young and enthusiastic,'' Hall said of his D men.

Edmonton is coming off a 9-8 loss in Calgary. The Rush are in dire need of a win — especially at home where they are 0-3.

''We're getting better in most areas,'' said GM-coach Derek Keenan. ''With the new guys on defense and on offense it's taking time, but we're getting there. But we need to start winning games right now.''

Ditto from Rush transition runner Jarrett Davis.

''It's time to start turning it around,'' said Davis.

Rush rookie Mark Matthews continues to make jaws drop with his scoring moves.

''He has fantastic skills,'' said Hall. ''We've got a ton of respect for him.''

Adds Keenan: ''He'll be a premier player this league, there's no question.''

Saturday

CALGARY at MINNESOTA (2-3), 7 p.m. ET (YouTube)

The Roughnecks fly in from Toronto to play a run-and-gun outfit full of energy.

''They're prepared to take chances and make big plays and you have to respect that,'' said Snider. ''They've done a good job of taking a bunch of kids and turned them into a very talented team.''

Minnesota is pumped after its OT win over Toronto but now coach Joe Sullivan and his players face a club that has won four in a row.

''They're on a roll, they're a hot team,'' said Sullivan.

Malawsky said No. 1 goalie Mike Poulin will start in Toronto and that backup Frankie Scigliano could start in St. Paul.

''It's real close for him to get the start,'' Malawsky said during the league's weekly conference call Wednesday. ''What we do Saturday might be predicated on what we do Friday night in Toronto.''

BUFFALO (3-3) at ROCHESTER (3-3), 7:30 p.m. ET (YouTube)

Second place in the East is up for grabs.

This is the third meeting this year. Buffalo won 14-13 in Rochester on Jan. 19 and Rochester drubbed the Bandits 15-7 in Buffalo last Saturday. The 'Hawks had won 20-10 in Philadelphia the previous day. That 0-3 start is ancient history now and head coach Mike Hasen is relieved.

''We knew it was going to be a matter of time and we're glad it's come now as opposed to down the road,'' said Hasen.

The Bandits feel they got pushed around on their home floor in the 15-7 loss.

''This weekend we need to execute a little bit better the things (coach) Darris (Kilgour) is teaching us to do and if we stick to our game plan I think we can be successful,'' said transition runner David Brock.

This game starts a stretch in which the 'Hawks play five of six at home. They'll be expecting a more determined Buffalo effort this time.

''I'm sure we'll see a much different team on Saturday,'' said 'Hawks forward Mike Accursi.

Accursi's return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch coincides with the team's three-game winning streak.

''I know it wasn't easy for him at that time,'' Hasen said of sitting out the veteran. ''He came back in and righted our ship. We make adjustments along the way. It's part of the business.''

Said Accursi: ''It's always tough when you're sitting out. You feel like you're on the outside looking in. You have to accept that decision whether you like it or not. When you get back into the lineup, you have to prove your worth. I'm here to help this team win a championship in any role the coaches feel I belong in and that's the one I'll take.''

EDMONTON at COLORADO (2-3), 9 p.m. ET (Altitude 2, YouTube)

This is the first of two meetings this year.

Edmonton plays a second night in a row.

''There's no easy ones,'' said Keenan. ''We've done well in back to backs in the past but this is going to be a difficult one.''

This game begins a stretch that sees the Rush play six of seven on the road.

Colorado is back in action at home after a 13-6 drubbing at Washington.

''We didn't have the start we wanted in Everett,'' said Colorado defenseman Dan Coates. ''We need a good start this weekend. We need to be physical and communicate.''

Colorado has activated transition runner Jarett Park, who'll play his first game of 2013 after rehabbing from a torn ACL. To make room, defenseman Eric Martin was dropped.

BYE: PHILADELPHIA (2-3). The Wings have lost three in a row, giving up 50 goals along the way. It is time to regroup.


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