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Morning flight: Wings host Knighthawks today

02/05/2013, 3:16pm EST
By Travis Larner, Knighthawks beat writer for NLL.com

Philadelphia and Rochester both ready for the 11 a.m. game

The Philadelphia Wings (2-2) host the Rochester Knighthawks (1-3) on Friday morning at 11 a.m. ET at Wells Fargo Center. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)

The Philadelphia Wings (2-2) host the Rochester Knighthawks (1-3) on Friday at 11 a.m. ET at Wells Fargo Center to kick off Week #6 of the 2013 National Lacrosse League regular season. Watch the game live on the NLL on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.

The early start might be unusual for the teams, normally accustomed to playing games at night, but both sides downplayed the effect of the timing of Friday morning’s game.

“It doesn’t change my preparation,” said Knighthawks defenseman Tyler Burton. “It might change [things] for other players – not being able to take a nap before the game. It’s going to be interesting, but a game’s a game and you have to come prepared either way.”

“Once we get to the rink, I don’t think anything really changes,” said Wings head coach Johnny Mouradian. “I don’t think anyone will be focusing on what time of day it is. But the day before is really important. Have to make sure you eat properly and get enough rest.”

Philadelphia had a bye last weekend and should be well-rested in their return to action.

“Everybody had the week off,” Mouradian said. “I know some of the players took full advantage of it, went away and took some downtime which is very important. After the tough weekend, it’s nice to have a break.”

After back-to-back losses in Week #4 knocked them back to .500, the Wings are eager to get back on track this weekend.

“That’s definitely not a time that you want to have a bye week, coming off a weekend like that,” said Wings forward Kevin Ross. “We’ve had some good communication back-and-forth. The guy used the time to rest and [heal] from some bumps and bruises. Refocused and ready to go this weekend.”

With back-to-back games, the Knighthawks will try to emerge from the weekend with a .500 record by getting two wins against division rivals in the Wings and Buffalo Bandits on Saturday.

"Hopefully, this is a good way for us to get back to .500," said Knighthawks goaltender Matt Vinc. "I think that's the way we're looking at it. We're looking at getting another win on Friday against a pretty good Philadelphia team."

Following a dismal 0-3 record to start the season, the Knighthawks used strong defense to earn their first win with a 7-6 victory over the Washington Stealth last weekend. Rochester’s seven goals tied the NLL record for fewest goals scored in a game by the winning team.

Vinc earned the NLL’s Week #5 Defensive Player of the Week award by making 42 saves on 48 shots for a .875 save percentage, the second time he earned the distinction, as he was previously recognized for his play in their season-opening loss at Washington.

“It’s an indication of how much better we played as a defensive unit,” Vinc said. “Guys were getting in shooting lanes and really limiting their good scoring chances. We watched film last night, and it really showed how well we played defensively.

“I’m just the one who’s going to benefit from the good defense in front of me. I’m just fortunate enough that our defense is good right now and hopefully we do that moving forward.”

“[Vinc] bailed us out when we did make mistakes and had a great game,” Burton added.

The Knighthawks swept their regular season series with the Wings last season with wins in all three meetings in 2012. In the last week of the regular season, Rochester won 9-7, which seeded them second in the East Division and allowed them to host Philadelphia again the following week for the first round of the playoffs.

Last weekend, the Knighthawks allowed the Stealth to move the ball up the floor quickly in transition. Defenseman Mike Grimes was the benefactor of two of those situations, scoring twice. It could be good preparation for a Wings team that loves to run.

“Their roster is always quick,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “They move the ball in transition well. We’ve got to make sure we’re on. Get on and off the floor.”

Three of Philadelphia’s transition players were part of the blockbuster trade that sent the Dawson brothers to Rochester before the 2013 season. Jordan Hall, Paul Rabil and Joel White were sent to the Wings as part of the deal that involved six players and two draft picks. Hall and Rabil are their third and fifth-leading scorers this year respectively.

On the other hand, Dan Dawson and Rochester’s offense has struggled, scoring just seven goals in each of the last two games.

“It’s something we’ve got to address,” Dawson said. “Without overanalyzing, it comes down to execution – just burying your chances. I know I had five good chances in alone on net that I didn’t bury.”

Hasen knows his team will not win many games by scoring just seven goals. Although Rochester is last in the league with an average of 9.75 goals per game, Hasen does not plan on overhauling the offense just yet.

“We had a ton of chances and we had a ton of open looks [against the Stealth],” he said. “Tyler Richards played extremely well and he was a big difference in that game. If those chances weren’t there, then we’d be worried. We’re doing some good things right now; we’re just a little [snake] bitten trying to put the ball in the mesh. We know it’s going to come.”

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