If the Calgary Roughnecks want to host a playoff game this season, they need to play well away from home.
And with four of their final five regular-season outings on the road, the Riggers must adjust to playing without veteran forwards Tracey Kelusky and Kaleb Toth for a longer term.
The Riggers hoped they would get Kelusky back to open a two-game roady Friday night in Toronto, but the long-time captain came down with more concussion-like symptoms Wednesday night.
Toth didn’t even make the trip East. After playing the Rock, the National Lacrosse League team heads to Rochester for a doubleheader that could determine if the Riggers can catch the Edmonton Rush for second place in the West Division.
Kelusky was going through the testing this week and felt good before a headache Wednesday night knocked him out for at least Friday. He is doubtful for Saturday as well.
“It’s frustrating because I know how close I am and I know the importance of this weekend,” Kelusky said.
“The big picture is more important. These are huge games but we’re in the playoff picture and we have to make sure we stay there.”
Since Kelusky became captain of the Roughnecks in 2003, the Peterborough, Ont., native has never faced his childhood pal John Grant Jr. in the NLL.
In 2008, Kelusky was out with a concussion when the Riggers visited Rochester, while Grant was out with a season-long knee injury when the Knighthawks came to the Dome last season.
It appears the trend will continue.
“It’s really weird,” said Kelusky, who still feels well enough to joke about the situation. “Neither one of us want to show up the other. The floor probably isn’t big enough for our two egos.
“It’s definitely awful. I would love to compete against Junior. We’ve done it our whole lives.
“More importantly, this is a big weekend for the Roughnecks and this isn’t good.”
The Riggers (6-5) won’t have it easy in Toronto.
The Rock (6-6) lost 10-8 in the Saddledome Feb. 14 to start a five-game losing streak that brought them back to the pack in the East Division, and Troy Cordingley’s team will want payback against Calgary.
This is also a huge weekend for the Rock as Toronto visits Philadelphia Saturday night.
“Toronto is loaded for bear,” said Riggers head coach Dave Pym. “They will come at us with everything they have in their arsenal and more. We are going to have to be mentally and physically ready to respond.”
A week ago with Toth and Kelusky out of the offence, the Riggers piled on 72 shots against the Minnesota Swarm but still lost 17-13.
Just like that contest, Jeff Shattler and Nolan Heavenor will join the offence in certain sets to face the Rock.
The Riggers did get good news in that Scott Carnegie has recovered from his concussion and will return after missing one game.
This is a big outing for many Roughnecks players from Ontario, as plenty of friends and family will be in attendance.
It’s probably the biggest for Shattler, whose parents reside in the Toronto area.
“I find we’re more focused on the road because that’s all we do,” Shattler said. “For myself, I play better on the road because there are no distractions.
“You are just there to play lacrosse. You didn’t travel several hours, jump on a bus and miss work to lose a game.
“It’s the best feeling to win a game in the opposition’s barn. It’s going to be a tough road, but we’re good enough that we can adapt.
“The Toronto game is my favourite one on the road. It’s great to go back to back in Rochester. My family doesn’t get to see me play.
“When they are watching, I seem to play better.”