The Toronto Rock will get a big boost tonight as it tries to avenge its worst offensive performance of the season.
Lewis Ratcliff, one of the National Lacrosse League's top goal-scorers, makes his Rock debut at the Air Canada Centre against the Rochester Knighthawks.
Ratcliff, the Victoria native acquired at the trade deadline for Josh Sanderson, practised with the team for the first time on Wednesday.
Back in February, Rochester put the clamps on the Rock in an 11-4 victory. In that game, Toronto set a season low for shots on goal and matched its worst single-game goal total.
That matchup aside, Rochester's play this season has been shockingly poor. This is a team that dominated the NLL last season, winning 15 consecutive games on the way to the Champions Cup. But it has stumbled along to a 5-7 record in 2008, including Thursday's 11-8 loss to the Colorado Mammoth.
By no means, however, is the Rock looking past Rochester, toward tomorrow's road date with the East-leading Philadelphia Wings.
Rock head coach Glenn Clark said this edition of the Knighthawks is just as capable of lighting it up on the scoreboard as last year's club and proved it by scoring 20 goals on the Wings last week.
"They're a team that can explode on you at any time," Clark said. "The potential for them to be dominating is always there."
Ratcliff scored 50 goals for the Calgary Roughnecks in 2007, one fewer than league MVP John Grant Jr., of the Knighhawks. With 39 goals, Grant trails only Philadelphia's Athan Iannucci this season, while Ratcliff ranks fifth with 29.
Clark believes Ratcliff will provide a big boost to one of the NLL's lowest-scoring clubs.
"He brings an element that we haven't had," Clark said.
"Teams will have to respect that big shot (and) that big strong body that can create room."
Clark alluded, though, that there is a risk that Ratcliff won't be a good fit right away. The coach has preached ball movement all year, while Ratcliff has been known as a one-on-one force, reluctant to part with the ball.
"I don't think he's going to have a lot of trouble finding his groove," Clark said.
"The challenge is for the other guys, about how to play off of him, getting themselves involved."