There's a new kid in town.
Kim Squire, playing in his first game as a Buffalo Bandit, scored two of the team's first three goals Friday night and the more familiar faces took it from there in a convincing 16-6 National Lacrosse League victory over the expansion Portland LumberJax before 10,395 in HSBC Arena.
Squire, a 26-year-old who signed as a free agent after netting 96 goals and 191 points in seven seasons with the Toronto Rock and Rochester Knighthawks, had missed the first three games of this season with a hamstring injury.
"That was too long a wait," said Squire, who scored both his goals during the first 16 1/2 minutes as the Bandits never trailed in improving to 3-1 and reclaiming first place in the East Division. He also added an assist.
"I'm just glad I got a goal right away, that's what I wanted," Squire said. "[Scoring early] helped ease the pressure, and the pressure is always there."
Squire has shown flashes of brilliance in the pros. He was a member of four championship squads with the Rock, and in 2001 and 2002, he put up 53 goals and 111 points. But before Friday night, he'd played in only 13 NLL games since 2002.
"This is the team I've always wanted to play for," said Squire, who is from Brantford, Ont. "It's the team I've cheered for since I was young. There'll be a lot more memories with this team."
John Tavares had two goals and seven assists, giving him 1,080 career points and leaving him just 11 points behind NLL all-time leader Gary Gait, now coach of the Colorado Mammoth. Lindsay Plunkett added three goals and three assists for the Bandits, who scooped 52 loose balls to just 26 for the Jax.
"[Squire] did a great job getting us started, and he's going to add a whole new dimension to our team," said Tavares. "He's a really creative player, can work inside and outside. He's a weapon who's going to open up a lot more guys, create a lot more space. He's another guy to have to respect and cover."
Squire has had more downs than ups recently.
He missed all of last season with a hand injury and nearly the entire 2003 campaign after contracting necrotizing fascitis, a rare flesh-eating disease, on his right hand. He had cut the hand with a knife in a kitchen mishap and it swelled to more than three times normal size. He underwent two surgeries to remove flesh and soft tissue, plus skin grafts.
Friday night was his chance to make up for lost time.
He opened the scoring on a breakout set up by midfielder Mark Steenhuis' pass just 4:09 into the game, then gave the Bandits a 3-1 edge early in the second quarter when he took a pass from Cory Bomberry and wired a hard shot over the left shoulder of Jax goalie Dallas Eliuk on a power play.
"The object is to get everybody involved," said Steenhuis, who had two goals, two assists and eight loose balls. "Kimbo has been playing in this league for ages. There may have been some nerves and butterflies for him, but he's been around so long he knows how to handle it."
He hasn't been around as long as Eliuk, the NLL's all-time leader in saves who is in his 16th season. He owns more wins (13) over the Bandits than any other opposing netminder and had never before been in goal for a double-digit defeat against Buffalo.
"Eliuk, it seems, had our number while he was in Philadelphia," Bandits coach Darris Kilgour said. "We had better opportunities against him tonight than we did when he was in Philadelphia. Our guys were able to get some confidence."
Bomberry and Delby Powless each had two goals and two assists for the Bandits and Pat McCready added a goal, three assists and eight loose balls.
With what figures to be a tough game in Philadelphia's Wachovia Center against the East rival Wings (3-2) looming tonight (8 p.m., Radio 1520 AM), the lead allowed Kilgour to give starting goalie Steve Dietrich, who made 29 saves through three quarters, an early quit.