Like most other all-star games, the National Lacrosse League's midseason showcase isn't exactly a defensive clinic.
The winning squad in the previous four encounters has averaged more than 17 goals a game, which makes it sweet for the fans and the forwards. But as for the goaltenders . . .
"It's fun as a [runner] because you can disappear if you're having a rough night," said goaltender Steve Dietrich, one of three Buffalo Bandits who will play for the East Division team Saturday in Toronto's Air Canada Centre. "But certainly not as a goalie. You absolutely don't want to be embarrassed."
This is the third time Dietrich has been picked, but injuries in 2002 and '04 kept him from competing in those games. Last season, when he was named the NLL's goaltender of the year and led the league in goals-against average (10.96) and save percentage (78.9), Dietrich was passed over in favor of the Rochester Knighthawks' Pat O'Toole and the Philadelphia Wings' Dallas Eliuk.
O'Toole is the East starter this season, though Dietrich again leads the league in GAA (9.25) and save percentage (82.3).
"Anytime you're chosen by other people in the league, it's an honor to go and face the best in lacrosse," Dietrich said.
Forward John Tavares, who has tied Colorado Mammoth head coach Gary Gait as the NLL's career scoring leader with 1,091 points, and midfielder Mark Steenhuis will join Dietrich. Tavares was voted in as a starter.
"For the Toronto Rock players, it's their home game," said Tavares, who was born in Toronto and teaches high school in Mississauga, Ont. "I may live around the corner but I play for Buffalo. It's not a home game for me."
Tavares won last season's game with an overtime score at Calgary's Pengrowth Saddledome. He has 11 goals, six assists and 17 points in the four previous all-star games. Steenhuis was the Most Valuable Player of the 2004 game at the Pepsi Center in Denver with six goals.
Tickets for the game, which begins at 4 p.m., are available on-line at www.ticketmaster.ca.