Rock in hard place

RYAN WOLSTAT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

Who would have thought it would come to this?

The five-time National Lacrosse League champion Toronto Rock (7-7) must defeat the Philadelphia Wings (7-6) tonight at the Air Canada Centre to avoid needing a win next Saturday in Rochester, something the team has never done, in order to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

MUST-WIN

The reeling Rock, loser of three of its last four contests, can guarantee a post-season berth with wins in these final two regular season games, or with a win tonight, combined with two Minnesota Swarm losses this weekend.

"We're playing playoff lacrosse a little earlier than we planned," said Rock captain Jim Veltman.

"I thought we'd have our playoff spot sewn up by now," added Colin Doyle, the NLL's third-leading scorer. "Our division is just too tight to think we were just going to walk away with it, but I didn't expect for us to be at the other end of the spectrum (either)."

The winner of tonight's game will hold the season series, the first tiebreaker used to separate teams tied with identical records at the end of the regular season. Toronto won the first meeting 12-11, while the Wings later responded 14-12.

A Philadelphia victory would send that proud franchise back to the playoffs after a three-year absence and force the Rock to win for the first time in nine regular-season tries in Rochester, a daunting task to say the least.

Things could have been much easier for the Rock, but the team blew a 9-2 lead midway through the third quarter against the Swarm last weekend on the way to a 10-9 loss.

Veltman said his teammates know they can still make the playoffs even with a loss tonight, but insists they will not be looking past this game.

"(Figuring out playoff scenarios is) what we were doing last week a little prematurely," he said. "We're going to focus on what we need to do to win the game and let all that other stuff take care of itself."

The first round of the playoffs begins April 21.

ROCK CHIPS

The Rock will welcome its millionth fan in franchise history tonight. A handful of lucky fans will receive prizes from the Rock, including one fan who will be the grand prize winner ... Veltman needs just eight loose balls to best his NLL record single season total of 207, set in 2003.


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