Opposite directions

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

The first time they met, the Calgary Roughnecks edged the Edmonton Rush in overtime.

Since then, the clubs have gone in opposite directions.

While the Roughnecks went on to win five straight to start the season and now sit pretty atop the West Division, the Rush are once again fighting for a playoff spot.

Heading into tonight's contest (7 p.m.) at Rexall Place, the Rush are sitting last in the division, a game out of the fourth and final playoff spot.

"We really feel that we've improved although our record might not show it," said Rush head coach and GM Bob Hamley. "Every team in this league is good. You have to play a full 60 minutes and that's where we're trying to get to, is playing the game for four quarters.

"Every team is very competitive and you have to show up. We're trying to get to that stage and hopefully in the second half we can be better."

A costly loss to the Philadelphia Wings two weeks ago before the all-star break has put the Rush in a precarious situation.

The team is still within striking distance of a playoff spot, but now need a victory over one of the best clubs in the league in order to get there.

"We were obviously disappointed losing to Philadelphia," Hamley said.

"We thought we did a lot of good things, but we ran into a good goaltender who is playing very well. But we didn't shoot the ball very well and hopefully we can work on that in practice along with some other things to try and beat a very good Calgary team."

Only one team in the West has scored more goals than the 'Necks this season. They have four players who have collected at least 38 points through the first eight games. Rush leading scorer Dan Teat has 35 points.

"I think they have the best offence in the West and maybe in the league," Hamley said. "We have to try and stay five-on-five with them. Their power play is the best in the league, it's almost at 60%, which is incredible.

"Josh Sanderson (Roughneck leading scorer) has meant so much for that team.

"There are a lot of guys up for MVP at the halfway mark and I think he should be up there for what he's done for that team so far. There is no magic formula. We have to stay five-on-five with them and we have to have a great effort from our goaltending and defence, no doubt."

The Roughnecks head in with a 6-2 record having beaten the New York Titans on the road before last week's all-star break.

The two games they lost were one-goal defeats.

"We were really happy with the work ethic against New York," said Roughnecks assistant coach Dave Pym. "I thought it was one of our better team efforts against New York and the boys were rewarded for that effort."

In order for the Rush to pull off the upset tonight they'll need their best players to be better than the Roughnecks' best players. That will include a strong performance from Teat, who represented the Rush at the all-star game last week, but has not scored in his last two games.

"He was the captain of the West all-stars, which was a real feather in his cap," Hamley said. "If you look at the stats he had 17 shots in two games and hasn't scored. He's the first to tell you he hasn't been shooting the ball well, but he's been getting the looks.

"As an offensive guy, you start worrying when you're not getting the looks.

"When he doesn't get the chances we'll start worrying."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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