The Buffalo Bandits will have two strong opening weekend games to start the 2013 NLL schedule. They start the season by traveling to Philadelphia to take on the Wings on Friday night and then turn around and open the First Niagara Center on Saturday night against the Minnesota Swarm.
For the Bandits, their biggest roster move before the weekend starts is their own suspension to deal with. Defenseman Billy Dee Smith will serve a two game suspension for a slashing incident in the playoff game against Toronto. He will miss both of the games this weekend. In his spot, the Bandits have activated Jimmy Purves off of the PUP list. Purves played 12 games with the Bandits last season, registering 7 points during that time frame.
The team captains have been announced after last year’s captain Chris White left the team for Toronto. For the first time in his career, John Tavares will be wearing the ‘C’ this year while Scott Self and Shawn Williams will be the team’s assistant captains. It is notable that Tracey Kelusky will not have a letter after being an assistant captain for the two previous seasons.
Friday’s opponent, the Philadelphia Wings, are one of the few teams that may have downgraded during the season. A few weeks before the start of the season, the Wings shipped Dan Dawson and Paul Dawson to the Rochester Knighthawks for Paul Rabil, Jordan Hall, Joel White and Pat Campbell. Dan Dawson was the Wings’ leading offensive player with 103 points and had 78 assists on the season, which would have broken his single season record had Garrett Billings of the Toronto Rock not had 82 last year as well.
The Wings all-American philosophy has brought together a bunch of really good field lacrosse players into the mix. It also means that the Wings are going to try and transition the Bandits to death as the bulk majority of their players are solid two-way guys. Besides Rabil, the Wings showcase Brodie Merrill and Jordan Hall who have been terrorizing the league for some time now. Hall is going to miss this game after being suspended for an incident that happened in the preseason. Merrill is a big threat for the Bandits as he has 11 goals and 29 points in nine career games against the team, but the true Bandit killer to watch on the is Drew Westervelt with 27 goals in 12 career games versus Buffalo.
Anthony Cosmo has already been named the starter for the game on Friday night. Cosmo is 7-4 against the Wings in his career with a 9.30 goals against average and .803 save percentage. Brandon Miller will most likely be the starter for the Wings. He played against the Bandits in all three matchups last season and had a 2-1 record with a 13.85 goals against average. In Miller’s career, he is 5-7 against the Bandits with a 12.81 goals against average.
After playing in Philly on Friday night, the Bandits have to turn around and open up the First Niagara Center against the Minnesota Swarm. The Swarm were a team that gave the Bandits fits early in the 2012 season and they will hope to continue that trend in 2013.
Ryan Benesch is Minnesota’s biggest offensive threat, scoring a team high 33 goals last season with five of those coming in the two matchups against the Bandits. Benesch has been an offensive powerhouse for the Swarm ever since he was traded there from the Edmonton Rush. In his three seasons with Minnesota, Benesch has scored 107 goals and 250 points in 44 games.
One big name the Swarm are going to be without is Andrew Suitor. The third year player will be serving the first of a two game suspension for an incident that occurred in the NLL playoffs last year. Suitor led the Swarm in loose balls last year with 120. Suitor has three career goals in three career games against the Bandits.
This will be the first game for the Swarm against Anthony Cosmo. Cosmo sat out the start of the season for Minnesota last year before he was traded to Buffalo for a handful of draft picks. Cosmo did not actually suit up for the Swarm as he was obtained in the Boston Blazers dispersal draft and never reported to the team. At the other end of the rink, it should be Evan Kirk in net for the Swarm. Kirk is a second year player and started for the Swarm in their 13-10 loss to the Bandits in Buffalo last year. He allowed 12 goals on 47 shots in that game.
The game time on Friday is at 7:00 pm while Saturday night’s game will be at 7:30 pm.