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Playoffs give Jax second chance

by: , KEENAN

It’s National Lacrosse League playoff time, and Portland enters the eight-team fray with the worst record — 6-10. “We won the games we had to. I’m not making any apology for being 6-10 and in the playoffs,” LumberJax General Manager/coach Derek Keenan says, alluding to two wins against San Jose (9-7), their playoff foe at 3 p.m. Sunday. “Now, it’s anybody’s to win. This year, more than any I can recall, it’s really anybody’s to win. No clear favorite.” The LumberJax must win three road games to capture the NLL title. The Jax-Stealth winner will play the winner of the Calgary (7-9) and Colorado (9-7) matchup next weekend. Portland won’t play again in the Rose Garden because of seeding. No home game, no problem, Keenan says. “We seem to pull together on the road and fight through adversity better,” he says. Buffalo, one of four East Division 10-6 teams in the playoffs, beat the Jax 14-10 Saturday night in the regular-season finale at Buffalo. The Jax played without goalie Matt Disher and regulars Peter Morgan and Bruce Alexander. Keenan says his team played well and feels good about itself heading to San Jose. “We’ve had losses before and bounced back,” he says. Keenan led the Jax to the West Division title (and a 14-11 playoff loss to Arizona) in 2005-06, and then piloted the team that went 4-12 last season. The Jax have won consecutive games only once this season, Feb. 17 (Edmonton) and Feb. 22 (Calgary). “I’d like to be more consistent and win consecutively, which is what we need to do now,” Keenan says. There are no secrets between San Jose and Portland. The Stealth won at the Rose Garden 12-9 before the Jax responded with clutch victories at San Jose 12-10 and then 12-11 in overtime last weekend to clinch their playoff berth. The Jax will have to contain Jeff Zywicki, who has eight goals and 11 assists in the three games, and playmaker Colin Doyle. Zywicki had only one goal against Portland last weekend, when rookie Tyler Cadron and stud defenseman Brodie Merrill put the clamps on him. “He goes to the net really hard, and you have to push him out and not let him get there,” Keenan says of Zywicki. “He’s got a low center of gravity. He gets a step and can do some damage.” Portland’s Dan Dawson had four goals and five assists in the last Stealth game, and he had seven goals and 12 assists in the three meetings. Ryan Powell (five goals), Derek Malawsky, Peter Morgan and Merrill (four each) also have taken turns beating San Jose standout goalie Anthony Cosmo, “the best in the business,” Keenan says. Keenan says the key to winning in the playoffs is getting contributions from players other than frontline scorers. Playing good 5-on-5 lacrosse and avoiding penalties also remains paramount for his team. “It takes away our flow,” he says of penalties. “We hope both teams are disciplined and the referees let us play.”