January 7, 2011

NLL Floor Pass: Week 1 Previews, Audio

by Corey McLaughlin | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Edmonton Rush captain Brodie Merrill has mixed feelings about playing against his brother, Pat, on Saturday when Edmonton visits Toronto.

The 25th National Lacrosse League season gets underway this weekend with five games Saturday, including a meeting between the defending league champion Washington Stealth and a retooled Colorado Mammoth club that now includes John Grant. One Sunday game is also on the docket.

Here's your floor pass to the games, including several sound bytes from Wednesday's conference call with coaches. Check back to laxmagazine.com each week for game-by-game breakdowns and more sound bytes from around the NLL.

Edmonton Rush at Toronto Rock, Saturday 7 p.m. Eastern

The weekend's only All-Canadian team matchup pits brothers Brodie and Pat Merrill against each other. Brodie, the two-time league transition player of the year, has been elevated to the Rush's captain. He was previously an alternate. Pat, a defenseman, returned this offseason to Toronto, where he played five seasons before spending three years with the Titans organization. The Rock brought Pat in as part of their plan to boost their "grit," general manager and assistant coach Terry Sanderson said.

"It's a little bit awkward, actually," Brodie said of facing his brother. "We're really close and he's my best friend... I really want to see him do well back in Toronto, so it's going to be strange."

Listen to Edmonton coach Derek Keenan talk about the Merrill brothers matchup, as well as the Rush's offseason moves.

Listen to the Toronto GM and assistant coach Terry Sanderson talk about improving his team's "grit" in the offseason.

Boston Blazers at Philadelphia Wings, Saturday 7 p.m.

This Eastern Conference tilt features two new head coaches, though Boston's Matt Sawyer has been on the job much shorter than John Tucker. Sawyer, a former Toronto assistant, was hired Dec. 28 after Boston fired Tom Ryan two days before Christmas. Sawyer led the Blazers in three practices over the weekend as the team and its Miami Heat-like stars (Casey Powell, Dan Dawson and Josh Sanderson were the top three vote-getters in the 2010 MVP race) look to gel with a new coach. Tucker takes over as coach from within the organization. He was offensive coordinator last season. But he intends to bring some new thoughts and attitude to the Wings.

Listen to Blazers coach Matt Sawyer talk about becoming Boston's head coach and his focus for the team this week.

Listen to Wings coach John Tucker talk about his plans as head coach.

Rochester Knighthawks at Minnesota Swarm, Saturday 8:30 p.m.

No. 1 overall draft pick Cody Jamieson will make his NLL debut, and despite Jamieson signing a league-record, 10-year contract prior to the season, first-year coach Mike Hasen is downplaying expectations for the star. Even as some are looking for Jammer to pick up John Grant's role as leader of the franchise. "We're looking for Cody to be Cody and help the team win and move forward from there," Hasen said. For Minnesota, its offensive trio of Callum Crawford, Aaron Wilson and Ryan Benesch will look to pick up where the left off last season. Each finished top 10 in the league in points.

Listen to Rochester coach Mike Hasen talk about if Cody Jamieson will be expected to fill John Grant's shoes.

Listen to Minnesota coach Mike Lines talk about his expectations for the offense this season.

Washington Stealth at Colorado Mammoth, Saturday 9 p.m.

The defending champs return largely the same core from the team that led the league in offense and featured a terrific goalie tandem in Matt Roik and Tyler Richards. They face a Mammoth group that now includes John Grant Jr., who came over in a trade with Rochester. Colorado's No. 1 goalie, Chris Levis, is battling an ankle injury. Matt King will start if Levis can't go.

Listen to Washington coach Chris Hall talk about celebrating with the Cup this offseason and how he thinks the Stealth bolstered their defense this season.

Listen to Colorado coach Bob Hamley talk about whats excites him this season.

Buffalo Bandits at Calgary Roughnecks, Saturday 9:30 p.m.

The story line that jumps to the forefront here is the return of former Roughnecks captain Tracey Kelusky to Calgary for the first time since being traded to Buffalo in October. Kelusky played eight seasons with the Roughnecks, and was a respected leader both on and off the field. But he's a Bandit now. Calgary has 11 new players, and gone is the league's leading scorer last season, Josh Sanderson. Then there's this bit of news: Roughnecks owner and general manager Brad Banister, never shy about voicing his thoughts on the team's dwindling finances over the years, announced at a press conference Wednesday that the team is for sale.

Listen to Calgary coach Dave Pym talk about Tracey Kelusky.

Listen to Buffalo coach Darris Kilgour on the Bandits' offseason moves.

Calgary at Washington, Sunday 8 p.m.

Washington will raise its 2010 championship banner at home Sunday night. When asked if he'll have his team watch the ceremony as a motivating factor, Calgary coach Dave Pym said, "We'll probably be in the dressing room. It's their time to celebrate success and more power to them for doing that."

Listen to Calgary coach Dave Pym talk about playing back-to-back games and traveling this weekend.

Listen to Washington coach Chris Hall talk about dealing with complacency coming off a championship season.

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