Expect goals in bunches tonight at the Air Canada Centre as the Rock, which led the National Lacrosse League in offence last season, takes on the Buffalo Bandits, who finished second.
The Bandits, once again led by perennial MVP candidate John Tavares, along with high-scoring forwards Dan Teat and Mark Steenhuis, are bolstered by the arrival of former Rock star Kim Squire.
Squire, an original Rock member, back in the league after sitting out the entire 2005 season, returns to Toronto for the first time as a member of the Bandits.
Because of a quirk in the schedule, Buffalo will be playing its first game of the season. The two teams are very familiar with each other. In 2005, the Rock took the season series 2-1. Interestingly enough, the visiting team won each encounter. The Bandits also routed the Rock 19-10 in the 2004 playoffs.
"It doesn't take much to get up for Buffalo," Rock general manager/coach Terry Sanderson said. "The rivalry is there before you even hit the floor."
With both teams possessing potent offensive lineups, defensive coverage likely will be the deciding factor. "What I'm worried about is guys getting back and taking away scoring opportunities from the other team," Buffalo head coach Darris Kilgour said. Sanderson added that his team cannot afford lapses like the one that led to eight second-quarter goals in last week's 14-13 loss to Arizona.
Even though they have not yet played a game, Buffalo already is banged up. Highly touted rookie Roger Vyse is on the injured reserve with a suspected torn MCL. Squire and Lindsay Plunkett are battling hamstring injuries and tough defender Billy Dee Smith, the NLL's second most penalized player last season, also is questionable because of personal reasons.
Sanderson is not convinced that the Buffalo lineup will be severely depleted.
"We'll see," he said. "Those guys can heal miraculously in a night's time. I'll worry about (the missing players) when it happens.
"They're going to have a strong lineup regardless."