By Alex Pagliano – Bandits.com
The Buffalo Bandits host the Minnesota Swarm tonight at 7:30 p.m. at First Niagara Center, but will do so without one of their top defensive players.
Billy Dee Smith, who has been dealing with an Achilles injury, will be scratched tonight.
"His Achilles are tight, so we just want to make sure he's healthy down the road," Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley said.
Cordingley also noted that Andrew Watt will remain sidelined.
"He's a couple of weeks away, so he's not back yet," Cordingley said.
With Watt out, rookie Mitch Wilde projects to make his second consecutive NLL start.
"He's been good for us," Cordingley said. "He's come into the lineup and fit in."
A bye week can come at an opportune during the season. Just over two months ago, the Buffalo Bandits used the second week of the season to regroup after a tough home loss to Philadelphia.
A bye week can also come at an inopportune time, as well. Just over two weeks ago, the Bandits improved to 6-2 on the season with an emphatic 13-7 home victory over those same Wings on Feb. 15.
Though the team has had two weekends off, the players and coaching staff hope they can carry that momentum into Saturday when they host the Minnesota Swarm at 7:30 p.m at First Niagara Center.
"I have been around the team for a long time, and I can never remember having over 20 days off," Bandits assistant coach Rich Kilgour said. "We're looking forward to Saturday."
Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley opted to rest the week after the Feb. 15 game. The team congregated last Tuesday as Cordingley ran a rigorous practice.
"Troy really put the team through the paces on that Tuesday," Kilgour said. "[Last Tuesday] was just an overall running practice to get our legs back underneath us."
After the team returned to shape, Cordingley and the team focused on Minnesota.
"Over our last two practices, we've just started to prepare for Minnesota," Kilgour said. "We knew that we had three weeks in between games. I think Troy did a great job [handling the break]."
Coming out of the break, the team plans on resting Andrew Watt for at least another week. Watt separated his shoulder on Feb. 1 and has not played since.
"We have a deep defense," Kilgour said. "We are going to let him heal up and make sure he's 100 percent before returning."
Kilgour also expects defenseman Billy Dee Smith, who has been dealing with an Achilles injury, will play Saturday.
"He's kind of up in the air right now," he said. "But we're thinking he'll probably go."
Minnesota also has had some time to rest. They defeated Philadelphia 15-14 on Feb. 23 and have not played since. At 2-7, the Swarm is currently in last place in the NLL East.
"Buffalo's a tough place to play," Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan said. "We have not had much luck."
The Swarm is 3-8 on the road against Buffalo since 2005 and have not recorded a victory at First Niagara Center since Feb. 28, 2009.
The game carries an added importance for the Swarm, who despite being 2-7, are just 2-3 against Eastern opponents this season. Entering Saturday just 1.5 games back of third-place Toronto with two remaining games at home against them, Sullivan knows the Swarm can compete to make the postseason.
"Fortunately for us, the East has struggled," he said. "We just have to take care of our business."
After Saturday, the two teams meet twice more. The Bandits travel to play in Minnesota on March 23 and again on April 12.