As the National Lacrosse League's 2014 season enters its fourth week of play, each game becomes a little more important than the last, especially for the teams at the bottom of the standings.
Seven games are on the schedule this weekend, making it the busiest weekend of the season. Every team is in action and vying for position.
The Minnesota Swarm are off to a disappointing 0-2 start. Goaltender Tyler Carlson has done an outstanding job between the pipes so far, giving up just eight goals per game, but the offense has been sputtering.
Rookie forward Logan Schuss was expected to make everyone forget about sniper Ryan Benesch, who was traded to the Buffalo Bandits over the summer. Although he has demonstrated that he can take care of himself when things get rough, he has only picked up three points in two games, which is well short of expectations.
The Swarm play back-to-back games this weekend against the Philadelphia Wings. They visit the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon and then host the Wings at the Xcel Energy Center on Sunday afternoon. If they hope to get back into the playoff hunt, they need to start scoring goals and earn at least a split.
The Wings are also struggling. After a decisive Week 1 win over the Bandits, Philly has dropped two straight, including an overtime loss to those same Bandits last weekend.
Kyle Buchanan has been playing like a man possessed, collecting 17 points in three games. Last year as a rookie with the Washington Stealth, he picked up just 22 points in nine games—at his current pace, he'll set a career high this weekend against Minnesota.
The Wings will be playing for two wins to get them back into the playoff picture.
In the West Division, the Colorado Mammoth have already played four games and have two more this weekend. With a division-worst 1-3 record, the Mammoth need to get back on track.
With that in mind, Colorado signed free-agent forward Athan Iannucci this week to bolster its right-side scoring. Iannucci was cut by the Vancouver Stealth coming out of training camp, but he scored 47 points last year and gives the Mammoth a fourth front-line offensive threat, in addition to Adam Jones (18 points), John Grant Jr. (17) and Drew Westervelt (15).
Colorado will also need some improved play on the other end of the floor.
No. 1 goaltender Tye Belanger has been roughed up in all four games so far this year, posting a poor 16.31 goals-against average.
Rookie Dillon Ward has been considerably better, with a 10.80 GAA in almost the same amount of time, but he took a beating in his first start last weekend against the Edmonton Rush. He gave up eight goals in less than a half of playing time before Belanger relieved him.
Colorado travels to Vancouver to face the Stealth on Friday and then hosts Buffalo on Saturday. The Mammoth's only win so far this year came against the Stealth in Week 2, so they'll be aiming to continue that trend this weekend.
The complete weekend schedule is as follows:
Friday, Jan. 17
Saturday, Jan. 18
Sunday, Jan. 19
Follow me on Twitter @calgaryjimbo