'Necks search for spark

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

Calgary Roughnecks head coach Chris Hall figures the return of veteran defender Jesse Phillips is just the spark his club needs right now.

To be successful in the National Lacrosse League these days, teams need their defence to chip in a few goals most games.

Calgary's back-end accounted for three markers in the team's season-opening 11-9 victory over the expansion Edmonton Rush but has been kept off the scoresheet in the club's last two tilts.

Phillips, who led the club's defenders with 11 goals in 14 games last season, came off the injured reserve this week and will make his season debut this weekend in a doubleheader on the road against the 2-0 Arizona Sting (tomorrow) and the 1-1 Portland Lumberjax (Saturday).

"It has been a concern so far and usually Jesse leads that parade," said Hall. "So, absolutely, we're hoping he gives that spark to us. We need to score more from the backend. We'd like to get three or four goals from the back-end and right now that's not happening."

Hall said Phillips brings 'spirit' to the defence.

"I think it means a great deal to our team to have Jesse back," said Hall. "Jesse brings a lot of heart. Jesse brings some great transition. Jesse brings some spirit and fight and great loose-ball work. I think we've missed his spirit in the first three games and he's a big-game player, so I know he's been pretty antsy sitting in the stands."

The importance of defensive goals was never as obvious as during Calgary's 14-11 win over the Buffalo Bandits in the 2004 NLL championship game at the 'Dome. The Riggers got six goals courtesy of the defence, including a hat-trick from Phillips.

Phillips has been sidelined nursing an injured groin and rehabbing since October surgery to his right knee. The 30-year-old lefty appreciated Hall's confidence in him but said he doubts his return will solve all the team's transition troubles.

"I'm hoping I can help out a bit," said Phillips. "That's basically my game. I don't think me coming back will make that much of a difference, though.

"I think it's just a matter of the team getting its legs right now.

"I don't think we're running as much as we usually do. I think without an exhibition season, the guys are still settling in."

QUICK STICKS: Minnesota Swarm goalie Nick Patterson, who turned in a stellar performance with 47 saves in a 12-8 win over the Roughnecks Friday, was yesterday named the NLL's overall player of the week. Portland Lumberjax goalie Dallas Eliuk earned the defensive player of the week nod while teammate Brodie Merrill captured rookie of the week honours. Philadelphia Wings forward Jake Bergey was the offensive player of the week.


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