Can Rush be competitive?

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:06 PM ET

Paul Day knows it can be done. He's been there before and seen it happen.

A first-year team in the National Lacrosse League can compete right off the first faceoff and, in fact, do much better than just be competitive.

Day, the bench boss of the expansion Edmonton Rush, played the first season of the Buffalo franchise in 1992. The Bandits finished with a .500 record during the regular season, but made the playoffs and went to the championship final.

Three years later as a coach in Rochester, Day's freshman club again was level during the regular season and then turned heads by losing the league final in OT.

Those past reflections are enough to get Day's juices flowing for the Rush's season to begin Jan. 6.

"I think I'd be lying if I said we didn't want to get into the playoffs and in this league, with a one-game series (in the post-season), getting into the playoffs is the bottom line,"said Day.

His team will be introduced at the West Edmonton Mall Ice Palace today.

A HOT GOALIE

"If you have a hot goalie or a guy who's on fire around the net anything can happen. With a 16-game schedule it's like the playoffs every week.

''You have to be patient and not worry about the short term week to week. You bring in good guys and grow with them."

But in the City of Champions that growth spurt has to come quickly or a team gets lost in the shuffle in short order.

"I'm pretty comfortable in that position," offered Day. "We went to the final five times in 11 years in Rochester. With this coaching staff and players, we have the attitude that we expect to win every night and that we have a chance to win every night."

The Rush won't have an easy time of it, particularly when pondering the first few weeks of their schedule.

They open against the San Jose Stealth, whose playoff hopes were only dashed by seven one-goal losses last season. The next three games for Edmonton are against the past two NLL champs - a home-and-home series with the Calgary Roughnecks and then a trip to Toronto to play the defending champion Rock.

GOOD DEFENCE AND SPEED

Day likes the look of his team especially the defensive unit and the overall speed in the lineup, highlighted by Cam Bergman, whom Day considers to be one of the quickest players in the league.

"For the next five weeks, we'll work on how we play together," said Day. "I don't want to say a system because that sounds robotic. It's a vision of making sure we know how players will fit into roles and whether they're willing to accept them."

This is not a first-year team lacking a winning attitude. Jimmy Quinlan helped the Rock to the title a year ago and eight players wearing Edmonton's silver and black uniforms wore the emerald green of the Mann Cup champion Victoria Shamrocks this past summer.

"We've got a really good Western flavour," said local product Kevin Howard. "There's no question we'll compete in this league. We have all the talent in place."


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