March 20, 2014

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NLL Weekend: Bandits Head West for Pair

By Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Stevens Archive

Four games are on tap this weekend and Buffalo is in two of them. Coach Troy Cordingley's crew will try to end Edmonton's 10-game undefeated streak when the division leaders clash Friday night and the Bandits continue their travels with a Sunday matinee in Minnesota. Here are the matchups (all times EDT, all games on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network):

FRIDAY

BUFFALO (8-2) at EDMONTON (10-0), 9:30 p.m.

This should be a great game. Buffalo is first in the East, Edmonton is first in the West, and this is the only regular-season meeting. Edmonton slammed Calgary 15-7 in Calgary last Friday to remain undefeated, while Buffalo edged Colorado 12-9 at home last Saturday for its third win in a row.

Rush GM-coach Derek Keenan is well aware of Buffalo's ability to score quickly in transition breaks.

''We're going to have to bring our best to compete with these guys,'' says Keenan.

Edmonton is allowing a league-low eight goals a game.

''It's real important going down the stretch that we stick to our game plan, concentrate on the little details and get better each game,'' says defenseman Kyle Rubisch.

Assistant Bandits coach Rich Kilgour said during the league's weekly conference call Wednesday that ''two wins for us this weekend would be huge.''

''We know we've got our work cut out for ourselves,'' he said of the Friday date in Edmonton. ''They're young, fast, and have an aggressive defense. They're 10-0 and obviously No. 1 in the league right now.''

CALGARY (6-5) at VANCOUVER (3-8), 11 p.m.

This will be the third of three meetings. Calgary won 15-12 at home on Jan. 18 and 20-9 at home on Feb. 15 and aims to sweep the season series. It won't be easy.

''We always have a tough time with them,'' Calgary coach Curt Malawsky said of the Stealth. ''We've got to be on our game. I expect our guys to bounce back from last week's effort. We know the enormity of this game. It's going to be a playoff atmosphere.''

Calgary was trounced 15-7 by Edmonton in its last game. Forward Shawn Evans has put that one behind him. Ditto for his teammates.

''We'll go over things (Thursday) and be ready to go,'' said Evans. ''We're excited to get back on the floor and compete.''

Vancouver, coming off a bye week, is in desperate need of a win to maintain any semblance of hope of getting into the playoffs.

''The guys are pretty anxious to get back on the floor,'' says head coach Chris Hall.

The offense has to pick up its pace, says forward Lewis Ratcliff.

''We can get right back in (to playoff contention) if we play the way we know we can,'' said Ratcliff, who shoots from the left side. ''The left side has to play as well as the right side. We're not shooting well.''

SATURDAY

TORONTO (5-7) at PHILADELPHIA (3-9), 7:30 p.m.

Somebody will have to make sure Brandon Miller goes to the right dressing room. He had a Wings jersey on for a home game last Sunday and now, after being acquired by Toronto at the trade deadline Tuesday, he'll be going back to Philadelphia in a Rock jersey.

''Pretty crazy,'' he said of being in two games in Philly in six days in different sweaters. ''It's definitely going to be strange going back there but, talking to my wife, we feel it's good to get it out of the way early.''

Said head coach John Lovell: ''Nick Rose is our No. 1 goalie and it's great to know we have someone to fall back on if things aren't going our way.''

Miller was to participate in his first practise with the Rock on Wednesday night and is looking forward to playing for a team closer to his Orangeville, Ontario, home.

Last weekend, Toronto blew a 9-3 lead in losing 17-12 at home to Rochester and then flew to Minnesota and edged the Swarm 9-8 on Colin Doyle's OT goal.

Philadelphia needs to win this game if it wants to catch Toronto and steal the third and final playoff berth in the East. This will be the second of three meetings. The Rock enjoyed a 20-10 romp at home back on Feb. 7. The Wings return to Toronto on April 12.

Philadelphia's 11-7 home loss to Rochester last Sunday was its sixth straight defeat.

''Our destiny is still in our hands,'' said head coach Blane Harrison.

''This weekend is do or die for us,'' said forward Tracey Kelusky. ''We have to basically start fresh starting now. There's no tomorrow.''

SUNDAY

BUFFALO at MINNESOTA (2-9), 3 p.m.

This will be the second of three. Buffalo won 12-9 at home on March 8. The last time the Bandits played in Minnesota, April 6, 2013, they were drubbed 21-7.

''Last year they really gave it to us in Minnesota,'' said Kilgour. ''We're looking for some redemption going back there.''

Bandits forward Ryan Benesch will be playing in St. Paul for the first time since begin acquired from the Swarm.

Minnesota is coming off a 9-8 OT home loss to Toronto. The Swarm have played four home games and lost all of them. Assistant coach Aime Caines said the players retain hope of turning things around.

''We're going to compete every night to try and get Ws,'' said Caines. ''We're still trying to stay positive.''

BYES: Rochester (9-3), Colorado (5-8).


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