March 25, 2011

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An up-and-down, back-and-forth game ended with the Washington Stealth capturing the first NLL championship in franchise history with a 15-11 victory over the Toronto Rock. Lewis Ratcliff, whom Toronto traded to Washington in exchange for Colin Doyle prior to the season, won game MVP honors with five goals. © Richard Olson
An up-and-down, back-and-forth game ended with the Washington Stealth capturing the first NLL championship in franchise history with a 15-11 victory over the Toronto Rock. Lewis Ratcliff, whom Toronto traded to Washington in exchange for Colin Doyle prior to the season, won game MVP honors with five goals. © Richard Olson

NLL Week 12 Floor Pass: Previews, Audio

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com


Dan Dawson and the Boston Blazers head west for a key two-game road swing.

Playoff races are heating up, as indicated by the National Lacrosse League offices sending out its first playoff-clinching scenarios information of the season this week. Toronto and Calgary have already secured spots, but everyone else could still either make or miss the NLL postseason.

Buffalo, Minnesota and Washington each have a chance to clinch a playoff berth this weekend.
Here's a look at this weekend's six games, including several sound bytes from Wednesday's conference call with coaches. Check back to laxmagazine.com every week for game-by-game breakdowns and more audio from around the NLL. (All game times are local.)

Minnesota Swarm (5-4) at Edmonton Rush (2-9), Friday 7 p.m.

This is the first of two games for Minnesota this weekend, and the Swarm can get in the playoffs by winning just one of them. They are certainly well rested to take on the challenge, having not played in three weeks.

"We've stressed to the guys to stay prepared and to stay in shape during their time off," coach Mike Lines said. "We're approaching this game just like any other and we will be ready."

Amazingly, Edmonton still has a shot at the playoffs – the Rush is three games behind in the win column of second-place Minnesota and third-place Washington.

"We still have an opportunity to get in the playoffs. At the same time, we need to start winning some games and not rely on others to do things for us," Edmonton coach Derek Keenan said.

Listen to Minnesota general manager Marty O'Neill on the state of the Swarm and the matchup with Edmonton.

Listen to Edmonton coach Derek Keenan talk about trying to make the best of this season, playing at home and the defense – which has allowed 37 goals in its last two games.

Boston Blazers (6-5) at Washington Stealth (5-6), Friday 7 p.m.

Boston begins its two-game western road trip in Washington, and the Blazers will try to snap a two-game losing streak. "We've had four losses by one goal, one was an empty netter, and the little things are deciding those games," Boston coach Matt Sawyer said.

Washington is similarly unhappy with its play, especially on defense. "We had a disappointing defensive effort against Calgary at home," Washington coach Chris Hall said of its last game, a 17-13 loss March 5. "Our two-man game defense was terrible, and we're going to start to focus on that."

The Stealth makes the playoffs with a win.

Listen to Boston coach Matt Sawyer talk about the western trip and thoughts on the playoff race.

Listen to Washington coach Chris Hall on facing an East opponent for the first time this season , Kyle Hartzell and defensive concerns.

Toronto Rock (9-2) at Calgary Roughnecks (8-3), Friday 7:30 p.m.

The big news out of Toronto this week is that goaltender Bob Watson will retire at the end of the season because of family and work commitments at his new job with the Waterloo Regional Police. Will the Rock use this fact as some motivation throughout the second part of the season? The second half begins with a big matchup, a meeting of East and West Division leaders in Calgary.

"These two clubs usually bring out the best in one another," Toronto general manager Terry Sanderson said. "I think there's going to be a lot of skill on display. You have to measure yourself after someone and Calgary is that team."

"The way the games have been going, anything could happen. It could be run and gun. It could be a tight, defensive battle," Calgary coach Dave Pym said.

Listen to Toronto general manager Terry Sanderson about playing for the first time since March 4, facing the Roughnecks, what improvements the team needs and if getting off to a quick start is important.

Listen to Calgary coach Dave Pym on the matchup with Toronto, the Roughnecks' balance and keys to offensive success.

Philadelphia Wings (4-7) at Rochester Knighthawks (5-5), Saturday 7:35 p.m.

Two teams in the thick of the East Division playoff race face off in Rochester.

Asked about the playoff implications of this game, Wings coach John Tucker said, "It's something that we don't really concentrate too much on because I think it can backfire if you place too much emphasis on one game, yet at the same time we do know that this is a pivotal games for both clubs."

Five of Rochester's final six regular season games are against East opponents. Four of Philadelphia's last five are also in division.

Listen to Philadelphia coach John Tucker on team activities during a two-week game break, facing Rochester for the second time, and the need to play consistent.

Listen to Rochester coach Mike Hasen on the season so far and playoff implications of this game.

Boston Blazers (6-5) at Colorado Mammoth (1-8), Saturday 7 p.m.

The second game of the Blazers' western swing will get them up early, as they leave Washington at 6:30 a.m. Saturday to head to Denver for this game later that night. They expect to find a determined opponent in Colorado.

"We all know their record and the struggles they've had earlier, but they're sitting in a spot where they can qualify for the playoffs," Boston coach Matt Sawyer said. "They're a team that's anxious to get a win at home. They also have some new blood in there."

The Mammoth reacquired former team captain Gavin Prout from Edmonton in a March 15 trade. Colorado also completed a trade deadline deal with Washington that brough them defenseman Ian Hawksbee and forward Joel Dalgarno.

Listen to Boston coach Matt Sawyer talk about making his first lacrosse trip to Colorado, Boston's goalie situation, scouting the Mammoth, the road trip, the upcoming schedule and the offensive chemistry.

Colorado coach Bob Hamley was unavailable this week.

Buffalo Bandits (7-3) at Minnesota Swarm (5-4), Sunday 1 p.m. (TV: Versus, live)

Buffalo can clinch a postseason berth with a win and a Philadelphia loss, and the Bandits have won three in a row. But they aren't making much of the win streak.

"Confidence is a tough thing in this league, because there is so much parity," Buffalo assistant coach Derek Ram said. "We made a decision at the start of the year to take it one game at a time."

But Minnesota is using this game as a measuring stick against one of the league's best teams.

"We have not fared well against Buffalo over history," Swarm general manager Marty O'Neill said. "It's a great marker for our season to see where we're at, and see what we can get accomplished, and use that to go forward and hopefully get into the playoffs and make some noise this year. You have to beat teams like Buffalo."

Listen to Swarm general manager Marty O'Neill talk about playing Buffalo and a tough upcoming schedule.

Listen to Buffalo assistant coach and associate general manager Derek Ram talk about coming off a bye week, if team confidence is growing, Chris Corbeil and Tom Montour.


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