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Unbeaten Rush roll into Rochester for rematch with Knighthawks

03/24/2014, 9:30am EDT
By Rush beat writer Scott Zerr & Knighthawks beat writer Jeremy Pike for NLL.com

Edmonton takes 11-0 record on weekend trip, first against defending champs

Rochester Knighthawks (9-3) host Edmonton Rush (11-0) at Blue Cross Arena on Saturday at 7:30pm ET. (Photo: Dale MacMillan)

The two-time defending champion Rochester Knighthawks (9-3), perched atop the East Division standings, will host the first-place unbeaten Edmonton Rush (11-0), seeking their 12th-straight win, at Blue Cross Arena on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.

The Rush are undoubtedly the best team in the National Lacrosse League as it stands right now.

But if there's still a big challenge ahead of them and that is grabbing ahold of the Champion's Cup. For the past two seasons, the Knighthawks have claimed the Cup as the NLL's year-end best. The Rush want to be the best, but as a wise and colorful character once said, "To be the man, you have to beat the man."

"They are still the benchmark," said Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan. "We have a big hill to climb and we expect a very tough battle."

The Rush meet the Knighthawks Saturday night in Rochester - a rematch of the 2012 Champion's Cup won by the K-Hawks in a terrific comeback. The game is also the return clash of a meeting earlier this season that the Rush won 8-7 in overtime at Rexall Place.

The Knighthawks welcome the undefeated Rush to the Blue Cross Arena on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Knighthawks are in a position to clinch a playoff spot with a win against the Rush or losses by either the Toronto Rock on Sunday or the Minnesota Swarm on Saturday. However, Rochester is not getting ahead of themselves in terms of the playoffs.

“What happens, happens,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “We're just looking to put our best foot forward against a really good team in Edmonton here. As long as we're doing little things, coming with our best effort, what results we get...we get.”

Knowing how close Rochester was to handing Edmonton their first loss of the season is in the back of the Knighthawks' minds leading into this game.

“We talked about it when we left that rink,” Hasen said. “If each of us eliminate one mistake, we might come out on the right side of that. We're just trying to limit mistakes. We just need to get off the floor hard and try and capitalize on our transition as well.”

Asked what Rochester needed to do to improve to 6-0 at home this season, Knighthawks defenseman Mike Kirk said it will come down to small details.

“Little things,” he said. “We're going to have to really focus on everybody doing their job and their job only. And just the little things are going to have a huge impact on the game. So everybody does their little part, it'll be a good game again.”

The Rush look to tie the longest winning streak in one season, held by the 2007 version of the Knighthawks, at 12 straight-games. Viewed by some as possibly the biggest game of the regular season, the players have to be feeling the pressure.

“I think you guys are hyping it up,” Kirk said, referring to the media.

For Rochester to reverse the outcome of the last matchup with Edmonton, they have to cut through the hype and distraction and just focus on the little things it takes to win.

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