Morning Shoot Around Updates:
-Head coach Darris Kilgour said defender Jimmy Purves will return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch last weekend. Defender Mike McNamara was placed on IR.
-Kligour also said forward Nick Cotter will take the place of injured forward John Tavares. Tavares hurt his calf in practice this week and Kilgour said they will continue to assess the injury after tonight's game to determine Tavares' status for next week. Tavares participated in some warm up excercises with the team this morning prior to the shoot around.
-Toronto Rock defender and former Bandit captain Chris White was suspended one game by the NLL, but the Professional Lacrosse Players Association has appealed the ruling and will be allowed to play until a decision is made.
The Buffalo Bandits (3-1) are set to take on the East Division rival Toronto Rock (4-1) on Saturday night at the First Niagara Center at 7:30 PM.
With a quarter of the 2013 NLL season in the books, the Bandits are eyeing the top spot in the division riding a three-game winning streak. All three of Buffalo’s wins have come in one-goal contests while the Rock are in the midst of a two-game winning streak..
Although the Bandits trail the all-time series with a record of 16-20 against the Rock, they have won nine of the last twelve meetings between the two teams, and went 2-1 against the Rock last season.
The biggest story of the game will be Chris White. The former Bandits captain left the team in free agency this past offseason and opted to sign with the Rock. White says that while he is excited, the key is to not get too caught up in the moment.
“I’m feeling a little bit of excitement. But, once you get on the floor you have to put those feelings aside and just stick the game plan we have for Buffalo,” White said.
The Bandits have their sights set on the win, and while they acknowledge the fact they will likely face similar emotions facing their former captain, the focus is on continuing to execute at key moments and tightening up on defense.
“Chris White was a big part of the Bandits and we have a lot of respect for him,” Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour said. “We know it’s going to be a hard-fought game. We’re making some plays when we have to. Obviously giving up 13 goals, we’re not pleased with that so we’re going to try to fix some things on the back door.”
Leading the way offensively for the Bandits all season has been veteran forward Shawn Williams. Williams has 21 points (four goals, 17 assists) in just four games this season. He posted six assists in Saturday’s win over the Philadelphia Wings.
The Bandits are also fortunate to have top defender Billy Dee Smith back in the lineup. Smith returned last Saturday after missing two games to a suspension and one game to injury. Smith is just four loose balls short of having 400 loose balls in his career.
“It felt great to be back on the floor, it was a long time coming,” Smith said. “I’m just looking forward to the season and being healthy. It seems like it’s been a two-year long road to where my body is 100 percent again. It was good to get back with guys and to battle with them.”
For the Rock, Garrett Billings leads the way offensively, with 29 points (seven goals, 22 points) in five games this season.
The Bandits will have a big hole to fill up front this weekend. Captain John Tavares suffered a calf injury at practice this week and will be out of the lineup, according to Kilgour. Tavares is third on the team in points with 14 (five goals, nine assists).
The game is set for a 7:30 PM faceoff and will be broadcast across Canada on TSN and TSN Mobile. Fans in the United States can watch the game ESPN 3 and fans outside of North American can tune in on The Lacrosse Network. Tickets for the game are available through the First Niagara Center box office and tickets.com.