Crucial weekend for Rock

RYAN WOLSTAT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

Though the season is still young, this weekend could determine whether the 0-3 Rock makes the National Lacrosse League's playoffs.

The Rock takes on the dangerous Buffalo Bandits tonight at the HSBC Arena, before heading to the ACC for a rematch tomorrow.

The Rock won six in a row last season after dropping its first four games, but with a strong expansion team in Chicago in an improved East Division, a similar streak would be far tougher should the Rock lose both games.

Rock coach Glenn Clark is aware of the stakes and the calibre of the Bandits.

"There's nowhere to hide for the coaches or players," he said. "Playing Buffalo is good for us. There's a healthy fear and a healthy respect for that team."

The Bandits anchor remains John Tavares, the NLL's career leading scorer, who again paces the loop in points-per-game and sits fourth overall.

The Bandits were the league's best for much of the 2006 season and handled the Rock in two of three encounters, but fell 16-9 at home to the Colorado Mammoth in the Champions Cup final.

Goalie Steve Dietrich, the reigning NLL MVP, has been out because of a knee injury, but could return tonight.

Even without Dietrich, the Bandits boast the NLL's top penalty-killing unit and third best power play.

Clark is aware the Bandits can make life difficult in a number of ways.

"They're a dangerous team all over the floor," he said. "They're tough and tenacious defensively."

The Rock will be without captain Jim Veltman, who has hamstring troubles.


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