For Curt Malawsky, just getting into the National Lacrosse League playoffs was calf the battle.
But now that the Calgary Roughneck veteran forward is set to chase down the elusive first Champion's Cup title, any aches and pains related to a nagging lower leg injury is the furthest thing from his mind.
"If you don't have anything going on (in terms of injuries), then you are probably not competing at the level you need to be competing at," said Malawsky.
"There probably isn't anybody in this league who doesn't have a few nagging injuries at this point in the season. I won't be using anything as an excuse."
The Roughnecks open the second season tonight in Denver against the Colorado Mammoth (7 p.m., Shaw TV tape delay), and Malawsky is refreshed.
He took a game off a month ago to give his calf a rest, and the time off worked wonders. While he was out, the Riggers lost to the Edmonton Rush, but the soon-to-be 33-year-old returned a week later and the team hasn't lost since.
A week ago in Edmonton, Malawsky scored four goals in a win over the Rush.
Roughnecks head coach Troy Cordingley loves having the 11-year NLL veteran in the lineup just because of how much blood, sweat and tears he gives to the team.
"If you look under 'warrior' in the dictionary, his picture is right there," Cordingley said.
"He will do anything for the team, and I mean anything. Whatever you ask him to do, he will do it. That's why he's lasted so long in this league. Plus, he can still score four goals in a game."
A year ago, Malawsky was one of the big reasons the Roughnecks bowed out in the first round of the playoffs. As a member of the Arizona Sting, Malawsky had a hat-trick as the Riggers lost 13-9 at the Saddledome.
The Sting made a run all the way to the Champion's Cup, but eventually lost 13-11 to the Rochester Knighthawks.
It was Malawsky's fourth trip to the title game and his fourth defeat.
Time could be running out on Malawsky's chances of claiming an NLL title, which is something the Coquitlam, B.C., native is well aware of.
"The older I get, time does weigh on your mind and you think about it running out," Malawsky said. "In the same sense, you have to stay focused on the task at hand and do the best I can.
"It's so hard to make the playoffs in this league. Every time you are in there, you don't take anything for granted. Whenever we get a chance to challenge for the Cup, it's something special. I'm excited every time."
When the Riggers acquired Josh Sanderson in a trade with the Toronto Rock, Malawsky was thrilled. Playing on the right side, opposite from the playmaking lefty, Malawsky knew there would be plenty of scoring opportunities because of Sanderson.
The two played together for only a few games in 1998 and '99 with Rochester, but developed a nice chemistry.
"By getting Josh in the trade, that really will prolong Curt's career because he has the ability to get open," Cordingley said. "He knows probably the best feeder in the league will get him the ball.
"The boys bug him about that tennis racket he has, but it's really good as a quick stick."