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April 10, 2013

NLL Week 15: Defending Champs Seek Playoff Berth

There are five games on the NLL's Week 15 schedule. All teams see action. Rochester is the only team playing twice and goes to Alberta for a pair. The 2012 champions are still trying to nail down a playoff berth.

Saturday

TORONTO (10-5) AT PHILADELPHIA (6-8), 4:30 p.m. ET

TV: CBS Sports Network, YouTube.com/TLN outside North America

The Rock look to clinch first place overall by winning this their 16th and last regular-season game. That would give the NLL East champs home floor as far as they go in the playoffs.

''It'd be something to look forward to,'' GM Terry Sanderson said during the league's weekly conference call Wednesday. ''That's something we'll be striving for on Saturday.''

Toronto is coming off a 10-9 home win over Rochester.

''It was a great win for us,'' Sanderson said.

Philadelphia split two games last weekend, losing 14-7 in Rochester and winning 15-13 back home against Minnesota.

The Rock and the Wings split two earlier games: the Wings won 8-7 in Toronto on Jan. 19 and the Rock won 13-8 in Philadelphia on March 16.

''We love playing against Toronto,'' said Wings GM-coach John Mouradian. ''It's always a high energy game.''

Wings goalie Brandon Miller always plays well against Toronto, added Mouradian.

''This is a huge game for us,'' said Wings defenseman Michael Manley. ''We'll try to use the momentum from our win to carry us through this weekend.''

Toronto is 5-2 on the road and Philadelphia is 3-4 at home.

MINNESOTA (6-8) AT COLORADO (6-8), 9 p.m. ET

TV: Altitude, YouTube.com/TLN

Both teams are still trying to clinch a playoff berth.

Colorado is coming off a 9-7 win in Edmonton and has won four of its last five.

''We're excited about the way we're playing right now,'' said Mammoth coach Bob Hamley.

Minnesota is coming off a 15-13 loss in Philadelphia.

''We had a couple of opportunities to close the door on them and we didn't get it done,'' said Swarm coach Joe Sullivan.

In one previous meeting, Colorado won 15-9 in Denver on Feb. 2.

Minnesota is 1-6 on the road and Colorado is 3-4 at home.

''The Pepsi Centre is one of the toughest barns to go into,'' said Sullivan. ''We've got to take them out of it as quickly as we can.''

Swarm players are encouraged by their belief they are all on the same page and have developed a sense of family.

''We're trying to keep that train rolling,'' said forward Ryan Benesch.

ROCHESTER (6-7) AT CALGARY (8-6), 9 p.m. ET

TV: YouTube.com/TLN

This is the only meeting this year. They split two games last season.

''They don't have a lot of holes,'' Calgary coach Curt Malawsky said of the Knighthawks.

Rochester fell 10-9 in Toronto last Sunday.

''We worked hard but we made a few errors that in essence cost us the game,'' said Rochester coach Mike Hasen.

Calgary is coming off a 12-11 home loss to Washington.

''Emotional control got the best of some guys,'' said Malawsky. ''Our guys have to refocus, regroup.''

Rochester is 3-2 on the road and Calgary is 3-4 at home. Two games in Alberta in two days adds up to a big challenge for the Knighthawks.

''We have our destiny in our hands,'' said Hasen. ''We've just got to worry about what is right in front of us _ Calgary. It's going to be a battle and one we'll have to be ready for.''

Malawsky on Rochester's defense: ''They're a hard-working team and it starts from their goaltender on out. You get nothing for free. Our guys are going to have to get to the middle of the floor and they've got to be willing to do that.''

Hasen on Calgary's offense: ''If we don't get rattled by the runs they'll get, we'll be good. It's going to be tough.''

BUFFALO (5-9) AT WASHINGTON (8-6), 10 p.m. ET

TV: YouTube.com/TLN

This is the only meeting this year. They last met in Everett, Wash., in the 2012 schedule finale when Buffalo eked out a 17-16 win.

Buffalo's 21-7 setback in Minnnesota last Saturday was its sixth consecutive defeat and it is looking as if the Bandits will miss the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. But they've yet to be mathematically eliminated.

''It's in the back of everybody's mind that there still is a chance (to make the playoffs),'' said Bandits transition player Mark Steenhuis. ''We've all been gripping our sticks too tight the last month or two and we've got to stop that. If we lose, it's pretty much our season.''

''We're facing a team that is in do-or-die playoff mode,'' said Stealth coach Chris Hall. ''I expect with their season on the brink we'll have a playoff-style battle.''

Washington's 12-11 win at Calgary last weekend kept the Stealth's first-place aspirations alive in the West.

''I was pretty proud of our effort,'' said Hall. ''It was a nice character win for us and put us into great position for our last two games of the season.''

Buffalo is 3-4 on the road and Washington is 4-2 at home.

Stealth forward Athan Iannucci was a healthy scratch last weekend.

''Athan was struggling, a little bit out of synch, and was having some turnover issues,'' explained Hall, who added that Iannucci would probably suit up against Buffalo.

Sunday

ROCHESTER AT EDMONTON (8-6), 4 p.m. ET

TV: YouTube.com/TLN

Edmonton would have sewn up first place in the West by now had it not been for its atrocious 1-5 home record.

''We want to play a playoff game at home,'' said GM-coach Derek Keenan. ''Our record at home is coincidence more than anything.''

Edmonton is coming of a 9-7 home loss against Colorado.

''Their young goaltender (Tye Belanger) was just spectacular,'' said Keenan.

In one previous meeting this season, Edmonton won 11-9 in Rochester on March 16, and the Knighthawks know it won't be any easier this time.

''We have to pay the price to get to the middle and not settle for the outside shot,'' said forward Dan Dawson.

Maintaining self-discipline will be important, too.

''We have to stay out of the penalty box,'' said Dawson. ''It really destroys the flow in our game.''

''We know we're going to be facing a hungry Rochester team,'' said Rush runner Jarrett Davis.

If Rochester loses both its games in Alberta this weekend, it might go into its season finale in Buffalo next weekend needing to win to get into the playoffs.


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