March 7, 2014

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NLL Weekend: New Coaches and Record Chances

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Adam Jones is still a bit away from return for Colorado, which replaced its coaching staff this week.

Pat Coyle, Chris Gill and Dan Stroup step behind the Colorado bench for the first time and will try to get the Mammoth back on track when they face the Calgary Roughnecks in one of four games this weekend, all on Saturday. Here are the matchups (all times ET):

CALGARY (6-3) at COLORADO (4-7), 9 p.m.

Game Available in US via ESPN3

Colorado lost 11-9 to Rochester at home last Saturday and Mammoth president-GM Steve Govett dismissed the coaching staff Tuesday. He named Coyle, Gill and Stroup interim coaches Wednesday. All were in the Mammoth lineup for the franchise's sole NLL championship in 2006.

''They are some of the best to ever play the game and they're champions,'' Govett said in a team release. ''I have the utmost confidence in the abilities of Pat, Chris and Dan, and I know they all bleed burgundy.''

If the three British Columbia residents instill half the heart they played with into the current players, things will improve, Govett added.

Adam Jones, who was leading the league in goals scored when he went down with a shoulder injury a month ago, is within a week or perhaps two of returning to action. It'll be a big boost for the Mammoth when he's back on the floor.

This will be the third of three meetings. Calgary won 13-11 at home Jan. 10 and lost 14-13 at home against the Mammoth on Jan. 25.

Govett, after intimating during a league conference call Wednesday that the weekly phonefests were becoming too tame, waded in with what he felt about Colorado-Calgary matchups.

''We hate Calgary and they hate us,'' he said.

''We'll be prepared,'' was all Calgary coach Curt Malawsky would say in response.

''We love playing there,'' said 'Necks faceoff specialist Geoff Fraser. ''I love my brother (Bob Snider, who takes faceoffs for the Mammoth) and we're going to go in there and show how much we love them.''

Calgary won its fourth in a row, 19-13 over visiting Toronto, last Saturday. It is the highest-scoring team in the league with an output of 13.89 goals a game. Defensively, the 'Necks are No. 7 with 12.6 goals relinquished per game.

Malawsky said he's pleased with his team's first half.

''The last four or five games we've been getting back to the basics,'' said Malawsky. ''(Goaltender) Mike Poulin has been playing well for us and our transition game has been sound.''

MINNESOTA (2-7) at BUFFALO (6-2), 7:30 p.m.

These teams haven't met yet this year but they are about to see a lot of each other as they square off three times in the next five weeks.

''They're pretty hot right now so we'll have to be ready to go,'' said Swarm goalie Zach Higgins, adding that if his team can ever start putting together 60 minutes of consistent play, ''I don't see why we can't be right there with them at the end (of the schedule).''

This is Buffalo's first game since Feb. 15, when they won 13-7 at home over Philadelphia. Three weeks between games is an NLL oddity.

''We can't wait to get going again,'' says assistant coach Rich Kilgour. ''Nobody wants to take three weeks off when you're going good. I've been with the Bandits a long time and I can't remember ever having 20 days off.''

The Bandits are statistically No. 3 on both offense and defense among the league's nine teams (11.88 goals for and 10.4 goals against per game).

Veteran Buffalo D-man Billy Dee Smith has a bothersome ankle and may or may not play.

''We'd rather have him 100 per cent at the end rather than having him at 75 per cent the next seven weeks,'' said Kilgour.

Minnesota is ninth and last on offense and sixth on defense (10.11-12.4). The Swarm had last weekend off after winning 15-14 in Philadelphia on Feb. 23. Now the Swarm have to play the East Division leader.

''Buffalo is a tough place to play _ always has been,'' said coach Joe Sullivan.

Swarm rookie Logan Schuss, who fired in five goals in Philadelphia, is ''playing with a lot more confidence now,'' said Sullivan. ''Guys like Callum Crawford have helped him get settled in.''

''We know they're going to come in all guns a-blazin','' said Kilgour.

PHILADELPHIA (3-7) at ROCHESTER (6-3), 7:30 p.m.

This will be the second of third meetings. Philadelphia lost 13-9 at Rochester on Jan. 11.

''I have the utmost respect for that team,'' said Wings coach Blane Harrison. ''It's going to be a big test for us. Every game is a big test for us. We're a young team, especially out the back door.''

Philadelphia was off last weekend. A 15-14 home loss to Minnesota on Feb. 23 was its fourth straight loss. The Wings are No. 5 on both offense and defense (11.4 vs 12.2).

''We had a week off to heal mentally and physically,'' said Harrison.

Rochester is coming off an 11-9 win at Colorado last Saturday, when defenseman Paul Dawson took his first two shots on goal this season. Both went in.

''It's always nice to get on the board,'' he said. ''I don't get that many chances so when they do arrive I try to make sure I capitalize on them.''

Rochester's No. 8 offense sputters along with a 10.75 average but GM Curt Styres has built a strong defense that is allowing only 8.5 goals against per game.

''We're definitely looking forward to getting back home,'' said Knighthawks coach Mike Hasen. ''It seems like a dog's age since we've been there.''

VANCOUVER (3-7) at EDMONTON (8-0), 9 p.m.

Edmonton stayed perfect with an 11-10 win over visiting Toronto last Friday, tying the record for best start to a season by Buffalo in 1993. It was an eight-game schedule back in '93. The Bandits added two playoff wins to take the title and end the year a perfect 10-0.

''The big thing is playing one game at a time and, as coach (Derek) Keenan has said, not getting too far ahead of ourselves,'' goaltender Aaron Bold says of the streak.

Edmonton is tied for No. 3 on offense (11.88) and is No. 1 on defense (8.0). It has won seven of its last eight regular-season games against the Stealth. This will be the second of three meetings this season. Edmonton overcame a big deficit to eke out a 9-8 road win Jan. 25.

''It was a good example of how our group has matured,'' Keenan said in looking back at that win. ''We managed to squeak out a win there and we've had a few of them lately.''

''They're a great team,'' said assistant Stealth coach Dan Perreault. ''Their record speaks for itself.''

Vancouver, which has lost six of its last seven, is playing for the first time since a 20-9 loss in Calgary on Feb. 15. D-men Kyle Sorensen and Chris O'Dougherty are on injured reserve. Vancouver is No. 6 on offense (11.2) and No. 7 on defense (12.6).

Jamie Lincoln, recently picked up by the Stealth after he was released by Colorado, says he's ready to go.

''I want to be part of that left side and producing the best I can to help this team down the stretch,'' he said.

BYE: TORONTO (4-6)


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