February 21, 2014

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NLL Weekend: Swarm Play Key Pair

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

A light NLL schedule offers only three games this weekend and Minnesota, which is desperately in need of a win, is in two of them. The matchups:

SATURDAY

MINNESOTA (1-6)
at TORONTO (3-4)

7 p.m. ET

This is the first of three meetings, and the first since Minnesota's 20-11 first-round playoff stunner in Toronto last May 4.

Minnesota is coming off a fourth straight loss, 14-9 at home against Edmonton.

''We've dug ourselves into a hole,'' coach Joe Sullivan said during the league's weekly conference call.

Toronto was blasted 17-9 at home by Rochester last Saturday. Starting Rock goalie Nick Rose was lifted after allowing 14 goals on 33 shots.

''I'm pretty disgusted with the result and the effort last week,'' said coach John Lovell. ''To give up eight goals in the second quarter and follow up with seen against in the third quarter . . . that was disappointing. We just made too many mistakes defensively.''

Mental lapses were a killer, said Rock forward Stephan Leblanc.

''When you're playing the defending champs, you can't afford those things,'' said Leblanc. ''But we've got a lot of good people in our dressing room and I think we'll overcome that.''

Toronto is No. 2 offensively, scoring 12.86 goals game, and Garrett Billings is averaging a league-best seven points a game. The defense has slipped to No. 6 with an average of 12.28 goals against.

''This is a critical, critical game for us,'' said Lovell.

Defenseman Chris White is coming off injured reserve to play his first game of the year.

Minnesota has scored a league-low 9.14 goals a game and is No. 5 defensively with an average of 12 goals against per game.

''We're just not putting together four quarters,'' said transition runner Jordan MacIntosh.

MacIntosh and his teammates have experience diversity earlier in their careers, he said, so recovering from a losing streak is nothing many of them haven't had to deal with in the past.

''We have a good group in the locker room to right the ship,'' said MacIntosh. ''We haven't been performing to the best of our ability including myself.''

The defense has to be better going forward.

''Our offense has picked it back up but our defense has fallen apart a little bit,'' Milligan said, adding that injuries to some key defenders has hurt. ''We've got to take this game as a must-win game.''

ROCHESTER (5-2)
at CALGARY (4-3)

9 p.m. ET

This is the only regular-season meeting this year. These teams last met on April 13, 2013, when Rochester won 15-14 at Calgary.

Rochester got five goals from Cody Jamieson, four from Stephen Keogh and three from Joe Walters in a 17-9 win in Toronto last Saturday.

''It was a big win for us, especially up in Toronto where we haven't had much success,'' said Keogh. ''Offensively, we were clicking and moving the ball well. Fortunately, most of our shots were falling.''

Shawn Evans collected 12 points in helping Calgary hammer visiting Vancouver 20-9 last Saturday. Calgary is No. 1 offensively with a 13.56 average but is No. 8 defensively with 12.86 against per game.

Rochester, backed by the outstanding goaltending of Matt Vinc, is No. 2 defensively with 8.14 goals against per game and is No. 8 offensively with a 10.86 average.

''We're going to be playing a real hot Rochester team,'' said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky. ''You get nothing for free against them. If you don't play mistake-free lacrosse against a championship team like that, things aren't going to go your way.''

There remains much room for improvement, said Malawsky.

''We've got to clean up some issues we've identified on video. We're still a work in progress but we like some of the things that are getting done.''

SUNDAY

MINNESOTA
at PHILADELPHIA (3-6)

4 p.m. ET

Minnesota's only win this season was an 11-10 nail-biter in Philadelphia back on Jan. 18.

''That win seems like a lifetime ago,'' says Sullivan.

Philadelphia is coming off a third straight loss, 13-7 loss in Buffalo.

''We come up against a hot goalie and we struggled putting the ball in the net,'' said assistant Wings coach Jim Milligan.

The Wings had better win this one because their following two are against Rochester.

Philadelphia is No. 6 offensively (11.11) and No. 4 defensively (11.89). Evan Kirk and Brandon Miller will likely each get a start in the Wings crease during the two-game weekend, and the offense gets a boost with Kevin Ross coming off the injured list.

BYES: Edmonton (7-0), Buffalo (6-2), Colorado (4-6) and Vancouver (3-7).


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