NLL Week 6: Can the Toronto Rock and Vancouver Stealth Get Back on Track?

Jim Flannery@@calgaryjimboAnalyst IJanuary 31, 2014

The Toronto Rock have two big games this weekend.
The Toronto Rock have two big games this weekend.B. White/Getty Images

There are five games on the NLL schedule for Week 6, and two teams in particular will be looking to reverse their fortunes.

The Toronto Rock (1-2) and Vancouver Stealth (2-3) play each other on Jan. 31 at 7:30 pm ET. Neither team is used to being under .500 and both will be seeking to win both of their weekend games to get back on track.

The Rock finished the 2013 season with the best record in the NLL at 10-6. Although they were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round, the expectations in Toronto are always high.

Nick Rose currently has the fifth-best goals against average in the league (11.00) and keeps his team in most games. 

Toronto's defense will be bolstered this weekend with the return of Bill Greer to the lineup after missing the last two games with injury. With Patrick Merrill and Chris White still on the shelf, every healthy body the Rock can put on the roster is critical and Greer is a key piece of the defensive equation.

Garrett Billings is once again off to a great start offensively with 18 points in Toronto's three games, while Stephan Leblanc has 10 goals in that time, putting him on pace for a 60-goal season. Even if he doesn't reach that lofty goal, Leblanc is well on the way to his best season since his 2010 rookie campaign when he notched 82 points.

Vancouver's picture isn't quite so rosy. After getting to the Champion's Cup three times in the last four years, their 2014 season has been bumpy so far.

After blowing a big first half lead last weekend to suffer a 9-8 decision to the Edmonton Rush, the Stealth will now have to deal with the absence of top scorer Rhys Duch (25 points) in Toronto. It was announced on this week that Duch will be suspended for one game due to an illegal cross check late in the loss to the Rush.

The Stealth will will be counting on Lewis Ratcliff (20 PTS), Cliff Smith (16 PTS), and rookie Tyler Digby (15 PTS) to pick up the slack with Duch watching from the press box.

Vancouver is further limited by having top defenseman Kyle Sorensen on Injured Reserve for at least this weekend. 

When all is said and done, it looks like Toronto will have the advantage over Vancouver on Friday night when they face each other in the ACC. But the Rock will be in tough Saturday night when they travel across the border to visit the surging Buffalo Bandits, who have won four straight to take over first place in the East Division.

Vancouver travels to Philadelphia on Saturday for a matchup against the Wings. The Wings have been inconsistent so far this year, winning their first game and their most recent game, but dropping three in a row in between. This is a game Vancouver needs to have and the return of Duch might provide the boost they need to take the road win.


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