EDMONTON - The Edmonton Rush have double the chance at making the 2012 NLL playoffs this weekend.
After a 2-7 start to the year, they have now won three of their last four and can cap an impressive turnaround with a single victory to punch their ticket to just the second post-season in franchise history.
The trouble is, this weekend’s double-header is against the two top teams in the league, beginning on the road against the Colorado Mammoth (11-3) on Friday (7 p.m., NLL.com), before heading home to host the Calgary Roughnecks (11-4) the following night (8 p.m., SportsnetWest).
“Those two teams have had a great season,” said Rush leading scorer Shawn Williams. “It is a huge weekend, obviously a tough weekend, but every weekend’s tough.”
Some more than others, as Edmonton has yet to beat Colorado in two meetings this season, and have already lost three to Calgary in 2012.
“Obviously our record isn’t great against either of those teams, but we felt we’ve done a lot of good things against them,” Williams said. “We didn’t really let any of those games get away from us except for one Calgary game where they put in a few at the end.”
Their next win will guarantee Edmonton at least fourth place in the West and the final berth in the Champion’s Cup playoffs — marking just their second post-season since reaching the divisional final in 2010.
“I’d prefer that we weren’t 5-8 and trying to squeeze our way in by trying to win one of our last three games. It would be nice to have something locked down by now,” said Rush defensive coach Devan Wray, whose squad has allowed a league-low 143 goals. “We’ve got to play with the cards that we’re dealt at this point.
“The nice thing is, we’ve got our destiny in our own hands.”
Truth be told, the Rush will make it in as long as the Washington Stealth don’t win out the last two games of their schedule against the Toronto Rock and Buffalo Bandits. But things just as easily come down to Edmonton’s last game of the season, when they host the Rock on Saturday, April 28 (7 p.m., TSN2).
“It’s a big challenge because we play three very good teams to finish the season out against Colorado, Calgary and Toronto,” said Wray. “And our biggest test is going to be walking into the Pepsi Center in Denver on Friday and trying to squeeze out a win against a very good team.”
Edmonton trails Minnesota by 11/2 games in the West Division standings but have one game in hand on the Swarm. Colorado, Calgary and Minnesota all clinched spots previously. Saturday’s opponent, the Roughnecks, are half-a-game behind the Mammoth and 31/2 up on the Swarm.
NET NUMBERS: Calgary netminder Mike Poulin and Colorado goalie Chris Levis share the NLL lead with 10 wins. Their Rush counterpart, Aaron Bold, is fifth with five victories and sixth in the league with 447 saves, trailing both Levis (league-leading 537) and Poulin (fourth with 486). Poulin also has the NLL’s second-best goals-against average of 10.27.
BOX BROTHERS: Rush forward Scott Evans and his Roughnecks brother, Shawn, are among the NLL’s most penalized players. Shawn is third in the league with 63 penalty minutes, while Scott sits seventh with 50.