Passed awkward phase

IAN BUSBY

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

When Josh Sanderson was airlifted in to rescue the Calgary Roughnecks offence, one of the unexpected disruptions in his life was travel.

Not only did the father of four have to get used to new teammates in new surroundings, suddenly he was taking four-hour flights to home games.

The Riggers picked up the slick-passing lefty late last National Lacrosse League season by sending Lewis Ratcliff to the Toronto Rock.

Considering the Orangeville, Ont., native didn't get much practice time with his new team then, Sanderson did exceptionally well in the final four regular-season games of 2008, recording 14 points.

After the Riggers lost in the second round of last year's playoffs, the team started fresh with their new star this season.

Sanderson was key to a 2-0 start a week ago and his pinpoint passing is a sure sign he is more comfortable with Roughnecks teammates.

In two games, Sanderson picked up 11 points, including the game-winning goal against the San Jose Stealth.

"It seems the adjustment is going better this year than last year, as well," said the 11-year NLL veteran.

"The biggest problem was playing at basically 10:30 back home. It was tough. I got used to it during camp and felt better this year than any time last year.

"These games have been better than last year. Lewis had been there for eight years. Taking him out and plopping me in, it was going to take some time.

"We're a lot more comfortable than last year. The only thing we missed in the first weekend was a bit of finish on the net."

The Roughnecks are in Toronto tonight (5 p.m.) to face the Rock on a roll and Sanderson is leading the charge.

This is the first time he returns to the Air Canada Centre since the deal, but he is just happy not to step on a plane this weekend.

With a busy family at home (the Sandersons have four kids under the age of four), Sanderson helps run a sporting good store along with father Terry, who's an assistant coach with the Riggers.

Along with sophomore Dane Dobbie on the left side, the 31-year-old developed a chemistry with the offensive players during this year's training camp that has carried into the season.

"He knows what to expect now," said head coach Troy Cordingley. "It just comes back to him being more familiar. The one thing I love about him is he hates losing more than he loves winning. That rubs off on other guys in our room. We weren't mentally ready to go Saturday as we were Friday, and he voiced his opinion. That focused the guys."

As a playmaker, Sanderson has started to not only find teammates open but put the ball right where they want it.

"Last year, I know I didn't get a chance to gel with Shooter," said Roughnecks captain Tracey Kelusky. "He's one of the best guys with the ball in his stick in terms of seeing the off-ball guys.

"We have some great offensive players, and that opens things up for him."

Although this weekend is somewhat of a homecoming, Sanderson isn't getting emotional about it.

"Last year's game in Calgary was the big one because it happened right after the trade," Sanderson said about a 12-11 Roughnecks overtime win at the Saddledome. "I don't think about the trade as much as I did last year."


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