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The West Wing: Mammoth will host Wings for 'Western Night' duel

03/24/2014, 8:45pm EDT
By Mammoth beat writer Nick Salen & Wings beat writer Julie Kayzerman for NLL.com

Colorado and Philadelphia both seeking wins to keep up in playoff race

The Colorado Mammoth (5-8) host the Philadelphia Wings (4-9) at Pepsi Center on Saturday at 9pm ET. (Photo: Jack Dempsey)

Fresh off a bye week, the Colorado Mammoth (5-8) look to outduel the visiting Philadelphia Wings (4-9) during "Western Night" at Pepsi Center on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on Altitude (DIRECTV channel 681 and Dish Network channel 410) and on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.

Prior to break, Colorado fell to the Buffalo Bandits by a score of 12-9 on the road in Week 12. With injuries, consistency and a new coaching system plaguing progress, the bye week, much like their first one in 2014, could not come at a better time as the final push for the postseason gets underway.

They also must deal with a Wings squad that not only hopes to extend their win streak, but also is jawing for a playoff spot of their own. Mammoth interim coach Chris Gill knows the break was nice, but the battle on Saturday will be prime up and down the floor.

“It's exciting to get back into it,” Gill said. “We had a week off, had a good time for some prep. Looking at Philly, they are coming off a big win against Toronto…a lot of talent in the roster so we have to be on top of our game to come out successful.”

Mammoth captain John Grant, Jr. also acknowledged both teams will be tooth and claw come Saturday with five regular seasons games remaining.

“Any game at the ‘Loud House’ is a good game…but you have two teams desperate to get into the next season, so obviously we are fired up to go," he said. "We used the week off to recuperate some injuries and hopefully clean up some of our new system put in place with a young squad.”

One of those key injuries is Adam Jones, who is expected to be in the line-up after missing eight weeks with injuries. It will be a welcoming site on the left side of the offense, and to the Denver crowd according to Junior, if the young shooter is not scratched.

“He was the candidate for MVP when he went down…it’s too bad for him and our team that he went out when he did," Grant said. "He’s been working hard and smart to get back to a hundred percent.”

But injuries have been a small part of the Mammoth struggles as of late. Unlike earlier in the season when the team struggled to register goals in the second and third quarters, Colorado has developed a bad habit of being down early in the opening frame. In the past three games the Mammoth have found themselves in early four and five goal deficits, a statistic that has proved very difficult to rally back from down the remainder of the game.

Defensively, Dillon Ward and the defense will need to bunker down early on and prevent any initial runs of the opposition. Despite the fact that lacrosse is a game of runs, the team has seen throughout their 2014 campaign how far an extra score or two can mean in the final minutes.

Coming off of an exciting last-minute win against the Toronto Rock, the Wings have found much-needed encouragement in their morale— after finally snapping a six-game losing streak— which they hope will propel them into a win over Colorado.

As the Wings' win over the Rock was vital in keeping them up for playoff contention, they must now continue the fight for a spot against Colorado.

“Every game for us is a playoff right now,” said Wings assistant coach Jim Milligan. “We’re chasing Toronto and Minnesota is chasing us. We were on a six-game losing streak there so obviously it was nice to get that monkey off of our back and to kind of believe that we can wing again and put stuff together.”

In the wake of forward Kevin Crowley’s much-awaited offensive domination last weekend, the Wings will look to repeat that chemistry to keep putting numbers up on the board.

“Kevin obviously certainly helps,” Milligan said. “He’s a big part of our offense but he we was kind of grinding axe for a little bit, and he obviously came out there on the weekend.”

He added that the Wings offense just seemed to click and matched up well against Toronto’s defense, however in regards to the Mammoth, Milligan knows it will still be a tough challenge despite last weekend’s triumph.

“They’re going to be very well coached and their system is going to be very cleaned up. They’re a very talented team,” he said.

However, Milligan acknowledged that the success of Philly isn’t just dependent on the numbers put up by the offense, but just as dependent on the defensive play that has seemed to come together in front of the net of goalie Evan Kirk— who held off a valiant effort by the Rock— gameplay that he will likely look to take into Saturday night’s game.

“Evan Kirk had a great night for us and he looked very comfortable in net,” Milligan said “He knew that he was the guy we were going with and I think his confidence level has improved and he stood on his head— so it might be a day when you’re goalie does that and your putting up some numbers— you have a good chance of winning.”

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