March 13, 2009

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Mark Steenhuis' effortless dominance, Dan Dawson's dunk in the hot tub, the return of Gary Gait highlighted a 27-21 East win in the NLL All-Star Game at the Pepsi Center. © Michael Martin
Mark Steenhuis' effortless dominance, Dan Dawson's dunk in the hot tub, the return of Gary Gait highlighted a 27-21 East win in the NLL All-Star Game at the Pepsi Center. © Michael Martin

NLL Notebook: All-Stars and Week 10 Preview

by Theresa Smith | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Even without the National Lacrosse League's second-leading scorer, Casey Powell, and face-off and loose-ball leader Geoff Snider, the East was dominant over the West, winning the NLL All-Star Game, 27-21, last Saturday at Denver's Pepsi Center. It was the fifth win in the last six contests and third straight for the East.

And it could have been worse.

Even without Snider, the 2008 All-Star Game Most Valuable Player, the East dominated faceoffs, winning 36 of 52.  Stephen Peyser, the New York rookie who ranks second to Snider in faceoff percentage, excelled as an injury replacement for his brother Greg, winning 28 of 39 faceoffs and tying teammate Jarret Park for a game-high 21 loose balls.

Toronto's Jason Crosbie, who does not take faceoffs for the Rock, also worked from the X, winning eight of 13.

The West countered with a pair who drew the short straw, joked Colorado Mammoth captain Gavin Prout.

Prout and San Jose's Jeff Zywicki, who do not usually take faceoffs, pulled the duty for the West. Prout won 11 of 33, and Zywicki managed just a 3-for-13 performance.

The idea of the NLL selecting a faceoff specialist for each team was not fully endorsed by Snider, who believes an all-star should have all-around abilities, such as exceptional defense or transition play.

Moreover, he contends that the confined space of the indoor game make the faceoff much less crucial than it is in the field game.
"But it would certainly make the all-star game more competitive," Snider said.  "Steven played great and has had a great year; it was a no-brainer having him step in.''

Prout, who was fatigued by the extra duties -- he wound up with a team-leading 17 loose balls, plus two goals and four assists -- is open to the idea.

"Maybe it is something they can look at in the future," he said. "The East would have had two if Geoff Snider was here, and that would have been very difficult to play against. But you know, I'm not disappointed in my performance in the circle. I haven't done it in forever and I didn't realize how much energy it takes out of you when you're playing almost every shift."

Snider, 27, is a few years younger than Prout, who turns 31 on Friday, and is accustomed to the extra floor time required to be a faceoff player, transition player and, at times, forward.

A fractured trachea kept Snider out of the game. He hopes to get back on the floor on April 4.

Powell, who has missed the past three games with an undisclosed injury -- not a concussion, according to Titans coach Ed Comeau -- has extended recovery time.

The Titans do not play again until March 28, when they meet Buffalo in a battle of the league's highest-scoring teams.

Since their last game before the break was a 15-14 win over San Jose on March 1, New York will have a 27-day break. While that is obviously not ideal for staying sharp, it is one of the realities of NLL scheduling, which ranks in the arena pecking order below the NBA and NHL.

Portland is also idle this week, as five games dot the NLL schedule:

Friday: Calgary (6-2) at Edmonton (3-6), 7 p.m. Mountain.

Saturday: Colorado (4-4) at San Jose, 12:30 p.m. Pacific; Toronto at Boston, 7:30 p.m. Eastern; Minnesota at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m. Eastern; Buffalo at Rochester, 7:35 p.m. Eastern.

Another 'Battle of Alberta' on tap


The Roughnecks started the season 5-0, lost a pair of one-goal games (13-12 to Colorado and 11-10 to Boston), then defeated New York, 12-10. Calgary boasts the league's best power play (58.18 percent) and shots-on-goal percentage (.780).

The Roughnecks take on an Edmonton team that has lost four of its last five games.

The battle for Alberta is usually fierce, however, as evidenced by the season-opener in Calgary, a 10-9 overtime loss for the Rush.

Edmonton defender Ian Hawksbee is coming off a fine performance in his first All-Star Game -- three goals, two assists and 13 loose balls.

Mammoth's Carey could return; Nash likely out for season

Both Colorado and San Jose are riding two-game losing streaks.

The Mammoth is hopeful that former all-star forward Dan Carey can return to the floor after being sidelined with a concussion. Another former all-star, goaltender Gee Nash, might return from a six-week stint on the injured list with a nagging back injury.

Colin Doyle of the Stealth put up impressive numbers in the All-Star Game -- a team-leading four goals with three assists.

Update: Colorado Mammoth goaltender Gee Nash said Friday that he will probably be sidelined for the rest of the season by a nagging back injury. "It looks like I'll probably be shut down for the season,'' Nash said. "It looks like I'll have some kind of corrective surgery.''

Nash, who has a 1-year-old daughter, is looking at his long-term health.

"It is unfortunate, but I want to have my health for life,'' he said. "She's the main reason.''

Nash has been on the six-week injured reserve list, undergoing therapy treatments in an attempt to relieve the pain. His replacement, Andrew Leyshon, has played well, and was  named as a reserve to the All-Star team.

The Mammoth (4-4) take on San Jose on Saturday afternoon. Jeremy Ogden was initially listed as Leyshon's backup since Curtis Palidwor was traded to Toronto two weeks ago, but the trade was rescinded -- leaving Leyshon and Palidwor as Colorado's goalies going forward.

Boston, Toronto headed in opposite directions

The red-hot Blazers, riding a league-leading, five-game winning streak, take on the Rock, sliding through a league-worst, four-game losing streak.

Boston's .749 shots-on-goal percentage is second- only to Calgary's .780. Toronto stands ninth at .706.

The Rock has the NLL's fifth-best power play, converting on 48.57 percent of its chances, while Boston has not needed that unit to thrive. It ranks ninth at 40.91.

Boston all-star Dan Dawson is riding high these days, following exhilarating performances on and off the field. In the All-Star Game Trick Shot contest, he shot while riding a go-kart and later scored on a goal the size of a waster paper basket.

In the game, he scored two goals and made seven assists, departing early to take a cannon-ball plunge into the hot tub and posing with two bikini-clad women.

Minnesota meets Philadelphia with momentum on side

The Swarm gained momentum prior to the break with a two-game winning streak on the heels of a five-game losing streak.

The second victory was an upset of defending champion and East Division leader Buffalo, 16-15. Although Minnesota converted only three of 12 power-play opportunities, the Swarm offense was bolstered by balanced scoring. Sean Pollock scored a hat trick, Chad Culp and rookie Kevin Buchanan scored two goals each and newcomer Aaron Wilson, in his third game since being traded from Rochester, scored five goals, although he needed 21 shots.

Kevin Croswell, who has been Minnesota's No. 1 goaltender, allowed eight goals on 14 shots and was replaced by Nick Patterson, who allowed seven goals on 31 shots.

All-stars represent Bandits well

Rochester has won consecutive games for the first time all season, and Buffalo is coming off one of its two losses. Bandits' all-star Mark Steenhuis is fresh off an unprecedented third All-Star Game Most Valuable Player performance. Steenhuis, who turned 29 Thursday, scored seven goals and made six assists.

Teammate Ken Montour was between the pipes for the first half and held the West to 11 goals on 24 shots. Another Bandit, 40-year-old John Tavares, scooped 15 loose balls, third on the East behind rookie wunderkind Stephen Peyser and Jarret Park, both of New York.

Knighthawks' 41-year-old all-star reserve Gary Gait left the All-Star Game early with a tender hamstring, but is expected to play against Buffalo.


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