Rock not panicking yet

ALEX CONSIGLIO, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:40 AM ET

TORONTO - The Toronto Rock will be without its second all-time point-getter for the first time in 10 years and 177 games Friday night against the Rochester Knighthawks at the Air Canada Centre.

Blaine Manning, who broke his collarbone two weeks ago against the Buffalo Bandits, is on injured reserve for the first time in his 11-year career. He’s expected to miss six-to-eight weeks.

“Not having him will have some effect,” said Rock general manager and assistant coach Terry Sanderson. “Blaine’s got great chemistry with the offensive systems (head coach) Troy (Cordingley) likes to run.”

Sanderson said Jamie Rooney, a free agent acquired in the off-season, and Brenden Thenhaus, the Rock’s newest acquisition and Manning’s replacement from Buffalo, will get a chance to step up.

“We got the guys to replace his numbers, whether we do it by committee or not,” said Sanderson, noting he cannot guarantee if Thenhaus will be in the lineup Friday.

Sanderson did say he wouldn’t be surprised to see backup goaltender Pat Campbell between the pipes at some point this weekend as the Rock head into back-to-back games.

The Rock travels to Calgary Saturday to face the Roughnecks in a rematch of its disappointing season opener which saw the Rock throw away two five-goal leads as the Roughnecks stormed back for the 12-9 victory at the ACC.

The Rock lost its next game against Buffalo, when Manning went down, for an 0-2 start to the season — making this weekend a “make or break situation,” said Sanderson, adding they’ll start asking some questions if they lose both games.

“There’s no panic right now — only those who don’t know what we got in this dressing room are panicking,” said Sanderson. “We’ll let our play speak for itself this weekend.”

Toronto knocked Rochester out of the first round of the playoffs last year after sweeping the three-game season series.

All-time, the Rock is 12-5 against Rochester at the ACC, but are 14-21 when games in Rochester are included.

Rochester head coach Mike Hasen called Friday’s matchup a “tough test,” even without Manning in the lineup.

“Not having Manning on the floor will give us more peace of mind knowing a reliable option is not there,” said Hasen, explaining if his team plays the way it did last weekend against Buffalo, it won’t matter who’s on the floor for last year’s championship Rock.

“Buffalo taught us a lesson,” said Hasen of the 12-9 loss. “Stick to the game plan — we didn’t against Buffalo and they sure made us pay for it.

“We played too much as individuals. We were vacating our zones too quickly and the defence was helping the offence too much.”

Hasen said he’s got a lot of local Toronto players on his team and coming into the ACC is always a challenge, so as of Wednesday, he told his players to have all their hotel and ticket plans settled for family and friends.

“We’re trying to eliminate as many distractions as possible,” said Hasen. “Our focus has to be on defeating the former champs.”


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