MILESTONE WEEKEND LOOMS FOR BANDITSNews | 3/10/2010 5:19:00 PM | #
It could be a milestone of a weekend for two of the National Lacrosse League's most familiar faces.
The next Buffalo Bandits win gives Darris Kilgour the record for most regular-season NLL coaching victories, 94, ahead of the late Les Bartley, while Rochester Knighthawks goaltender Pat O'Toole needs 34 saves to break Dallas Eliuk's career record of 6,356.
Buffalo (3-6) visits Toronto (6-4) in a crucial game for both teams Friday night.
The Bandits, fifth in the East, want to build on a 12-10 home win last Saturday over Orlando with hopes that an improved showing during the second half of the season will result in one of the division's four available playoff berths.
Mark Steenhuis gets the nod as overall and offensive player of the week after breaking loose for six goals and four assists against the Titans. The Rock won't want to be similarly victimized.
"When you allow Steenhuis to go off like that, it's a recipe for disaster," said Rock GM-assistant coach Terry Sanderson.
The Bandits got a much-needed boost of confidence in beating Orlando.
"I think there was a realization of how well we can play and, by the same token, how bad we've been," said assistant coach Duane Jacobs.
Kyle Clancy, the Bandits' 21-year-old forward from Peterborough, Ont., is rookie of the week after scoring twice and picking up four assists last Saturday.
Toronto's defence has allowed 40 goals in three straight losses, putting the team's hold on first in the East in jeopardy. Coming off a bye week, the Rock have had plenty of time to adjust things.
"It was a well-timed week off for us," Sanderson said during a league conference call Wednesday.
Chris Corbeil, the Bandits' standout rookie defenceman, is out for at least two weeks after suffering a knee injury against the Titans. Kyle Schmelze will suit up with a broken nose and Steve Priolo also is expected to play despite suffering a slight concussion last weekend, Jacobs said.
There's nothing wrong with Toronto's offence. Captain Colin Doyle has an NLL-best 61 points including 16 goals in 10 games, and rookie Garrett Billings is second with 58 points including 23 goals.
In one other game Friday, Philadelphia (2-7) is at Orlando (4-3).
Titans captain Casey Powell took a physical beating during his team's loss in Buffalo. He's used to the pounding and always comes back with an impressive effort.
"Casey is one of those players who plays hard and leaves it all on the field every game," said GM-coach Ed Comeau. "We certainly took some lumps but we delivered a few lumps, too. Casey will be a little banged up, like a lot of guys are, but should be ready for the weekend."
The Bandits, should they lose in Toronto, would get another shot at giving Kilgour his 94th win in Boston against the Blazers (5-4) on Saturday.
"We don't need any more excuses," Jacobs said of the must-win situation in which the 2008-champion Bandits find themselves. "Time has run out for us. We realize we still have an opportunity. Two wins and all of a sudden we're right back in the middle of things. It's a big weekend, an exciting weekend, for us. We'll be ready."
Elsewhere Saturday, it's Washington (6-3) at Calgary (5-3), Edmonton (5-3) at Colorado (2-6), Orlando at Rochester (5-4) and Minnesota (4-4) at Philadelphia (2-7).
Calgary, winner of four in a row after a 15-7 cakewalk over Philadelphia, will knock Washington out of first place in the West by handing the Stealth a fourth straight defeat. Roughnecks coach Dave Pym is far from satisfied.
"We've got to improve in a lot of areas still," says Pym.
Roughnecks goalie Matt King is defensive player of the week for stopping 40 of Philadelphia's 47 shots, and Jeff Shattler is transition player of the week for scoring two goals, assisting on one, and gathering in 12 loose balls against the Wings.
"Matt King has been playing steady all year," said Pym. "He hasn't had a bad game, and Jeff is doing a great job for us all over the floor."
Washington's great start - six straight wins - is ancient history now.
"Early on, we caught some teams by surprise," said coach Chris Hall. "We got ourselves on a streak and that was great.
"When we got into the three-game losing streak, injuries played a part in that. We lost Kyle Sorensen, out leader on the defensive end, and defensively the last few games we haven't been as strong as we were at the outset."
Edmonton goes into Denver off an 11-10 OT win in Rochester, and reinforcements might be on the way.
"Pat Jones is still a little iffy at this point . . . but we're hoping to get him back," said GM-coach Derek Keenan. "We miss him - not only in the faceoff circle but from a leadership standpoint and on defence."
The first playoff berth in franchise history is within grasp.
"We aim to keep rolling and half a good second half," said Keenan.
O'Toole is hoping Orlando's shooters will have weak wrists after playing Friday. The Torontonian has had a magnificent career, said assistant coach Mike Hazen.
"He's been that steady constant for us," Hazen said. "He's the main reason we win games most nights. That's what he gets paid to do and we expect it from him. Getting that record will be a testament to his career."
Comeau coached the Knighthawks to the 2007 NLL title and sees a load of talent in the current lineup.
"A lot of the naysayers were writing Rochester off earlier this season but they've come back," said Comeau. "They're getting goals from a lot of different sources and their tough to defend, and their goaltending has been good with Patty and Aaron Bold. We know Rochester is one of those places where it's hard to win so we'll have to be ready to give them a game."
Minnesota goes into Philadelphia on a three-game winning streak.
"I think we've turned the corner," says Swarm coach Mike Lines.
Swarm defenceman Ryan Cousins of Toronto has recently taken a firefighting job and will be unavailable.
"Historically, we've had some great games with them," said Wings coach David Huntley.
Attendance report (average)(at): Buffalo 15,766, Colorado 14,950, Toronto 10,580, Calgary 10,028, Minnesota 9,645, Philadelphia 8,818, Orlando 7,984, Boston 7,843, Edmonton 7,435, Rochester 6,540 and Washington 3,482.