April 18, 2012

NLL Weekend Preview: Top Two Defenses Collide

Friday

EDMONTON (5-8) at COLORADO (11-3)

Colorado won the previous meetings, 13-12 in Edmonton back on Jan. 20 and 11-7 at home on Feb. 4.

Colorado demolished Toronto 19-12 last Saturday.

Coach Bob Hamley on playing the Rush: ''They've been a challenge for us the last two games we played against them -- both close games.''

Mammoth forward Gavin Prout is fourth in league scoring with 83 points and has received little recognition for an outstanding season.

''It's probably the quietest big year anybody has had in quite some time,'' says Hamley.

Edmonton is coming off an 11-8 home win over Buffalo and is 3-1 since signing UFA Steve Toll to spark its transition game.

''More than anything, he's really been good on our bench and in our locker room,'' says GM-coach Derek Keenan. ''He's been a stabilizing force for us. It's almost like having another coach.''

TORONTO (7-7) at WASHINGTON (4-10)

They've met once and the Stealth won 14-9 in Toronto.

Toronto is licking its wounds after the Denver Debacle, losing 19-12.

''That's the first stinker we've put in in a month,'' GM Terry Sanderson said during the NLL's weekly coaches' conference call Wednesday.

The only positive was Stephan Leblanc's nine-point binge (4-5) that earned him the award for offensive player of the week.

Sanderson is agitated by high sticking that is taking a toll. Dan Carey hasn't played in three weeks after being hit high.

''I'm hoping that high sticks are going to get addressed,'' he said. ''We're running into some injuries and we're not too happy about that.''

Washington lost 14-9 at Minnesota last Saturday.

''We've got a veteran, experienced team but we've been making non-veteran mistakes on the floor,'' said head coach Chris Hall. ''We've got to put a stop to that.''

Saturday

ROCHESTER (6-8) at BUFFALO (5-9)

The teams split two in Rochester: 12-9 for Buffalo on Jan. 21 and 13-10 for Rochester on March 10.

Rochester just cooled off a hot Calgary club 14-12.

Buffalo will be looking for more offense after its 11-8 loss in Edmonton.

''We can't take getting into the playoffs for granted,'' says associate GM Derek Graham. ''We've got to bear down Saturday night.''

Tracey Kelusky has missed the last three games with what the club describes as ''an upper body injury.'' Like Carey, Kelusky has a history of concussion setbacks.

''I hope so,'' Graham replied when asked if Kelusky would be in the lineup. ''It's kind of hope and pray right now.''

PHILADELPHIA (7-7) at MINNESOTA (7-7)

One previous meeting: Minnesota 13 at Philadelphia 9 on April 6.

The Wings got a bye last weekend after losing three in a row so they had plenty of time to ponder the rematch.

''I think everybody knows Minnesota brings a lot of desire and grit,'' says Wings GM-coach Johnny Mouradian.

The Swarm, with Ryan Benesch back after missing three games with a concussion, beat Washington 14-9 last Saturday.

''He's a calming factor out there,'' GM-coach Joe Sullivan says of Benesch.

He knows the Wings will be hungry.

''We'll have our hands full with a team of giants,'' says Sullivan.

CALGARY (11-4) at EDMONTON (5-8)

The NLL's top two defenses collide.

The Roughnecks have already defeated the Rush three times: 12-8 at home Feb. 18; 13-10 in Edmonton on March 9; and 16-9 at home March 10. That doesn't provide head coach Dave Pym with much comfort. After all, he's still annoyed by a 2006 loss to Edmonton.

''There's nothing better than getting the emotional juices flowing by playing your provincial rivals,'' said Pym.

Mike Poulin might be back in the nets after missing the 14-12 loss in Rochester.

''Flush it down the toilet,'' Pym replied when asked what's best to do with that memory.

Keenan is well aware that his team's season is at stake.

''This is a real important key weekend for this team,'' he said.

Rush defenseman Kyle Rubisch was named defensive player of the week for his nine loose balls and three forced turnovers against Buffalo. Don't be surprised if Rubisch wins the annual award as top defenseman.


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