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January 24, 2013

NLL Week 4 Preview: Philadelphia Looks to Remain Only Unbeaten

Philadelphia is the only undefeated NLL team, while reigning-champion Rochester and Calgary, the team with the best regular-season record last year, remain winless. Hands up everyone who predicted this. Anyone?

A wild weekend is about to unfold as five teams each play twice.

Friday

MINNESOTA (0-1) at TORONTO (2-1), 7:30 p.m. ET

TV/Online: TSN in Canada, ESPN3 in U.S., NLL on YouTube outside North America)

The Swarm return to the green carpet for the first time since dropping their season opener 13-12 in Buffalo on Jan. 12.

''It's tough to lose like that and have to sit on it,'' Swarm defenseman Jeff Gilbert said. ''We're looking forward to getting back on the floor. It's a game the guys will definitely get up for.''

Gilbert helped Toronto win the 2011 title so has been looking forward to this one.

''Yeah, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have it circled,'' he said during the league's weekly conference call Wednesday.

The Rock opened with a 13-11 win in Calgary and a 10-9 win in Edmonton. Then, in their home opener last Saturday, they blew a 7-4 lead in the last six minutes to lose 8-7 to Philadelphia. Now they're up against a hungry Minnesota club.

''They're young and athletic,'' said Rock forward Josh Sanderson. ''We've got to take away their transition. It's going to be a tough battle.''

Toronto D Damon Edwards is expected back in the lineup after sitting last weekend with a hamstring injury.

CALGARY (0-2) at COLORADO (1-1), 9 p.m. ET

TV/Online: Altitude, NLL on YouTube

The Roughnecks lost at home 13-11 against Toronto on Jan. 12 and at home again last Saturday they led by four with five minutes left but were beaten 13-12 in overtime by Colorado.

''We've got redemption on our minds,'' Calgary coach Curt Malawsky said.

The Mammoth lost their home opener 17-13 against Washington before the huge win in Calgary.

''We're obviously thrilled by the win but we're not kidding ourselves,'' Mammoth coach Bob Hamley said. ''We've got a lot of work let to do.''

Colorado goalie Matt Roik played well after relieving injured started Chris Levis in Calgary so look for him to get the start. It would be his first start since starting for Toronto on March 16, 2012.

Calgary is hoping F Daryl Veltman will be available after sitting out last weekend with a groin injury. Regardless, the 'Necks are confident they've got enough veteran character guys to get back on track.

''We've gone through two- or three-game losing streaks before so this is nothing new for us,'' goalie Mike Poulin said.

''We'll tweak our game plan but we don't have to blow it up,'' Malawsky said.

WASHINGTON (2-1) at EDMONTON (1-1), 9 p.m. ET

Online: NLL on YouTube

An 18-10 home loss against Edmonton last Sunday brought the Stealth back down to the runway after they'd opened with wins over Rochester and Colorado. The Rush lost their opener 10-9 at home to Toronto and rebounded impressively in Everett, Wash.

''Nobody likes to get beat like that so you just know they're going to bring it,'' Rush GM-coach Derek Keenan said.

Washington forward Athan Iannucci can guarantee as much.

''There's nothing better than getting the chance to play your next game against the team that just beat you,'' Iannucci said.

Saturday

TORONTO at ROCHESTER (0-2), 7:30 P.M. ET

TV/Online: TSN2 in Canada, ESPN3 in U.S., NLL on YouTube outside North America

Coughing up a big lead and losing their home opener to the Wings was a shock to the Rock and now they have to go into Rochester and play a championship squad that'll go full throttle to atone for losing 13-12 at Washington on Jan. 5 and 14-13 at home against Buffalo last Saturday.

Playing two nights in a row is not a handicap for the Rock.

''I don't think it's an issue,'' said GM Terry Sanderson. ''We've been very successful in back-to-back games.''

Casey Powell began his comeback last weekend with the 'Hawks after a year away from the NLL.

''I'm really excited to be back in the league and my goal is to win a championship,'' Powell said.

PHILADELPHIA (2-0) at BUFFALO (2-1), 7:30 p.m. ET

Online: NLL on YouTube

The Wings beat the Bandits 13-8 in Philadelphia on Jan. 11 and pulled off an 8-7 upset in Toronto last Saturday. Goaltender Brandon Miller has been outstanding.

''We're D-first right now,'' GM-coach Johnny Mouradian said. ''That's giving us an opportunity to win.''

Transition speedster Jordan Hall returns to the Wings lineup after a one-game suspension kept him out in Toronto.

The Bandits rebounded from the loss in Philly with a 13-12 home win over Minnesota and a 14-13 win at Rochester. There has been an improvement on offense, says coach Darris Kilgour.

''The ball is moving a lot better this year,'' Kilgour said. ''We're scoring some timely goals, which was one of our big problems last year.''

''We're definitely getting tighter as the weeks go on,''Bandits forward Shawn Williams said of the chemistry building in the veteran-stocked offense.

Williams will appear in his NLL-leading 200th consecutive regular-season game.

''You just keep pluggin' away,'' he said. ''I'm proud to be part of this league for so long.''

Buffalo will be without defensemen Billy Dee Smith (sprained ankle) and Jon Harasym (suspension).

WASHINGTON at MINNESOTA, 8 p.m.

Online: NLL on YouTube

The Stealth fly in from Edmonton while the Swarm fly in from Toronto for their home opener. Whose legs will turn to rubber first?

Minnesota captain Andrew Suitor won't have that worry. He'll be making his season debut after sitting out the first two games while under league suspension.

''He brings a lot to the table just with his leadership skills alone,'' assistant coach Aimee Caines said. ''He's chomping at the bit to get out there. It's going to be a big left for us.''

Minnesota's defense will need all the reinforcements it can get.

''They have one of the most potent offenses in the league,'' Gilbert said of the Stealth.

Washington is looking a lot better than the lineup that went 4-12 last season.

''We're pretty happy to be off to the start we're off to,'' Stealth GM Doug Locker said.

No. 1 Stealth goalie Tyler Richards sat out last weekend with a lower body injury but Locker says he could dress this weekend.

''We're optimistic he will be able to go but we're being very cautious,'' Locker said. ''We've held him back because it's early in the season. We want to have a healthy Tyler Richards later in the season.''

Sunday

CALGARY at PHILADELPHIA, 4 p.m. ET

Online: NLL on YouTube

The Roughnecks fly in from Denver. Their biggest obstacle will be Miller.

''Miller has been the backbone of that club and it'll be a challenge for us to get to him,'' Malawsky said.

Pugnacious forward Geoff Snider plays in Philadelphia for the first time since being traded to Calgary in August 2010 for a first-round draft pick.

''He'll be fired up,'' Malawsky said. ''He's going to have a great game.''

The Wings will be back home from Buffalo.

''Everybody is playing with a lot of confidence,'' Wings forward Drew Westervelt said of the 2-0 start. ''We have a nice balance, moreso than in previous years. We're kind of coming into our own.''


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