TORONTO - Colin Doyle makes what his fans hope will be a triumphant return to Toronto on Saturday night.
The popular 31-year-old captain of the San Jose Stealth from Kitchener, Ont., has a chance to make National Lacrosse League history when he appears in his first game in the city since the Rock traded him on Dec. 27, 2006.
He's got a league-best 106 points, which is only nine shy of the single-season record set by Buffalo star John Tavares in 2001. Doyle has averaged eight a game and he's been red hot the last month so it is entirely doable.
The Stealth, 7-8, are third in the West and will be in a playoff game in Portland, Ore., against the Lumberjax the first weekend of May, while the Rock, 5-10, go into their season-finale in last place in the East having missed the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Doyle wouldn't consider sitting this one out to rest up for the Jax, and his attitude has nothing to do with the scoring title. He helped the Rock win five championships so he's pumped for purely sentimental reasons.
"I wouldn't miss that game for the world," he says. "I'm looking forward to seeing what it's like on the other side there and to visit with family, friends and some of the Rock fans.
"I haven't seen much of the Rock since joining the Stealth. I'm really looking forward to it."
More than a few lacrosse fans view the dubious '06 deal as the start of the Rock slide.
"It's shocking more than anything," Doyle says of the plight of the Rock. "It's hard for me to comment on it because I don't know much about that team anymore, but it's tough.
"For the league's sake, they need to do well. They've always been a marquee franchise. But I've been so concerned with the Stealth making the playoffs that I haven't paid a lot of attention to what's been up with them."
Doyle won the scoring title and was league MVP when he helped Toronto win its last title in 2005.
"I don't really dwell on things like that," he replied when asked about the chance of another scoring title. "This has snuck up on me. My concern has been trying to get our team into the playoffs so I haven't thought much about it."
Doyle tied the NLL single-season assists record with his 71st in his team's 11-10 overtime win over Colorado last Saturday so he should establish a new assists mark against the Rock.
"I know Colin is happy about getting to play in Toronto," says coach Chris Hall. "He'll have a big group of family and friends at the game.
"With a shot at the scoring record, I think it's going to be a special day for Colin."
Rhys Duch of Victoria, who scored five goals including the OT winner for the Stealth last weekend, will build on the 86 points he's already amassed in setting the league's rookie points record. Duch, who scores most times he gets the ball in his stick, was named rookie of the week by the NLL on Wednesday.
"He doesn't waste a lot of shots," says Hall.
Rock coach Jamie Batley says he won't put up with anything less than a total effort from his men, and he'll be watching closely.
"We're playing for pride and possibly for jobs next year so players will have to step up," says coach Jamie Batley. "If someone's not doing that, obviously that's not the type of player you want on the team going forward."
Meanwhile, a novel promotion by the Rock last November won't wind up costing them much. Fans buying a blue season seat for $239 were promised they'd get, if the team missed the playoffs, the same seat free in 2010. As it turns out, only 12 seats are involved.
In other games Saturday, the closing day of the regular season, Boston is at Buffalo, New York is at Minnesota and Philadelphia is at Rochester.
Buffalo, 10-5, can nail down first place in the East with a win over Boston, 9-6, in a game that will see the NLL single-season attendance record fall. Colorado drew 140,942 in 2004. Buffalo has drawn 125,124 through seven games, averaging more than 17,000.
Boston goalie Anthony Cosmo was named overall player of the week. The Mississauga, Ont., teacher stopped 37 of the 42 shots he faced in a 10-5 win over Rochester last weekend.
New York, 9-6, could yet finish first in the East if it wins at Minnesota, 6-9, and Buffalo loses to Boston.
Titans goalie Matt Vinc of St. Catharines, Ont., has been a standout. He made 41 saves in a 12-9 home win over Buffalo last weekend.
"Matt Vinc is still a relatively young goalie in this league and each week he gets more confident," says coach Ed Comeau.
The winner of the game between Philadelphia, 7-8, and Rochester, 6-9, gets the fourth and final playoff berth in the East.
"We've won five of our games on the road so I'm certainly glad we won't be on the road," said Knighthawks coach Paul Gait.
Philadelphia's Merrick Thomson of Hamilton is offensive player of the week for scoring scoring three goals and assisting on five in a 16-14 home win over Toronto last Saturday.
On Friday, Calgary is at Portland and Edmonton is at Colorado.
Calgary, 11-4, has already clinched the West title and the overall No. 1 playoff seed and Portland, 9-6, will finish second in the West regardless of the outcome of this one.
Lumberjax goalie Matt Disher, who is from Arthur, Ont., is defensive player of the week and teammate Scott Stewart of Hamilton is transition player of the week after victories over Calgary and Minnesota last weekend.
Stewart played only offence earlier in his career and has made a successful switch in becoming a complete two-way player.
"He's been special," says GM-coach Derek Keenan. "We score a good portion of our goals in transition and he's a big part of it."
Edmonton, 5-10, Colorado, 6-9, and Minnesota, 6-9, are all trying to land the fourth and final playoff berth in the West.
Colorado gets in if it beats Edmonton on Friday. After losing its last two games in overtime, the Mammoth figure it's time the bounces went their way.
"It's do or die and, fortunately for us, we've tended to play a little better when our backs are against the wall," says coach Bob McMahon.
Edmonton gets the playoff spot if it beats Colorado and Minnesota loses to New York the next night. The Rush won both previous games against the Mammoth this year so the players are confident heading to Denver.
"We know we can win there and we'll try to use that to our advantage Friday," said coach Bob Hamley.
If Edmonton wins, Minnesota can snatch the last berth from the Rush if it defeats New York on Saturday.
"I'm just hoping our game has some playoff implications," said Swarm coach Duane Jacobs.