Rushing back to the Rock

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:20 AM ET

They're still better than they are worse.

And that's not something the Edmonton Rush have been able to say before.

Although they split a home-and-away series with the Calgary Roughnecks following a 13-8 loss at the Saddledome last weekend, their 3-2 record is still good enough for sole possession of second place in the National Lacrosse League's West Division.

"Calgary was very good last week and we weren't very good at all and that's usually a recipe for (a loss)," said Rush head coach and general manager Derek Keenan. "We just didn't deserve to win and they certainly did."

TOP SPOT

While the Toronto Rock are deserving of their East Division-leading 5-1 record, the Rush would enjoy nothing more than handing them their second loss.

"We have to be better in our own end than we were last week," Keenan said. "Because of their talent level, they're going to get a lot of good looks at the net and a lot of good scoring chances. So we need to lower the amount of freebies we give up like the rebound goals, the turnover goals and the short-handed goals that are really the backbreakers that hurt us last week."

While it starts in their own end, Keenan said the Rush also need to execute on offence and especially the power play, which let them down last week by only converting on two of seven chances.

MINOR GLITCH

But one bad game doesn't make a team bad, and the Rock know they're facing a vastly improved Rush squad.

"They're right now in the top two in the league, probably," said Rock GM and assistant coach Terry Sanderson. "They've played extremely well and have got some leadership at both ends. It's going to be a big challenge."

Toronto hasn't had their best outings recently, either, although the standings say otherwise.

"Friday night wasn't one of our better games, but any time you can grab two wins you've got to be very pleased," said Sanderson, whose offence put together 33 goals in victories over the Philadelphia Wings and Buffalo Bandits last weekend.

Despite being an away game, it won't be much of a road trip for two-thirds of the Rush roster, which hails from the Greater Toronto Area.

"I'm excited on a personal level," said Keenan, who includes himself in the list of Easterners.

Friday will mark his first return to the Rock, a team he switched from as a player to a coaching role in 2000 before moving up to general manager.

"I haven't been there since '04 when I left the team," said Keenan, who was replaced by Sanderson. "As far as our guys, I'm sure they're excited as well.

"But you don't want to get too caught up in that and try to do too much (if we) play within ourselves and within our systems, we'll be fine. A lot of our guys will be well-rested this week not having to travel."

IN AND OUT: Rush defender and faceoff man Pat Jones will be a game-time decision again Friday after missing last week's match with a strained calf muscle.


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