Rush relish rest

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:56 AM ET

It’s been a season full of R ’n’ R for the Edmonton Rush.

But a bye week to end the regular-season meant they traded in their regular rock ’n’ roll schedule for a little rest and relaxation.

Having the weekend off while the rest of the National Lacrosse League figures out playoff positions will help with the bumps and bruises before meeting the Calgary Roughnecks in next weekend’s opening round.

“We’ve got quite a few nagging injuries right now, so this was a bit of a bonus for us to have a week off and get healthy,” said Rush head coach Derek Keenan.

The players appreciate the time, although it’s not exactly time off.

“I think that will certainly help us as far as being able to get our conditioning in on our own and coming in fresh for the playoffs,” said forward Ryan Powell.

“There’s no better way to have a two-week break than coming out with a nice victory.”

The Rush ended their regular season with a 14-13 win over the division-leading Washington Stealth on the road last weekend.

“If it would have gone the other way, it certainly would have been a lot more difficult to be sitting on the shelf for two weeks before you play again, and having that bitter taste in your mouth,” Powell said.

It also snapped a two-game losing streak to reach the playoffs on a positive note.

“It certainly shows that we’re in the hunt,” Keenan said. “We can play with anybody for four quarters.

“We’ve had our ups and downs this year, but it was a really good finish for us against a very, very good team.”

The Rush will be facing another formidable foe in the opening round against the defending-champion Roughnecks, who bumped Edmonton from second place in the West Division standings with an 11-10 win over the Colorado Mammoth on Friday night in Denver.

“In one way, it’s a good setup for us because now we play Saturday instead of Friday so we can get in Thursday and practice. It gives us more time,” said Keenan, whose squad lost a season-series tiebreaker to the Roughnecks, after ending league play with identical 10-6 records.

“You’ve got to go with the glass half full here and look at the positives. We’ll be rested and ready, so it will be good.”

The two teams met three times over the year, with the Rush coming out on top in the first meeting at Rexall Place before the Roughnecks pulled out victories at home and on the road.

“Calgary, obviously, is a really good team but we’re right there with them,” Keenan said.

“There’s not a lot of difference between the two of us, as evidenced by the games we’ve had with them this year. We’re a pretty confident group right now, I think.”

Whoever said it’s lonely at the top didn’t look at the NLL standings heading into the final weekend of regular-season action.

The Rush were in the thick of a first-place jam that could easily have come down to tiebreakers between the Roughnecks and Stealth that would have resembled paper, rock, scissors with each one holding an advantage over the next.

But that’s nothing new in the NLL.

“Last year in the East, I think there were three teams that finished 10-6,” Keenan said. “There’s so much parity in the league, so that’s what you end up with.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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