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Bandits rookie aching for instant impact Bucktooth has talents for scoring, hitting

The Buffalo Bandits drafted Brett Bucktooth to score goals, not push people around.

So what did he most look forward to as a professional indoor lacrosse player?

"My first hit, to be put to the ground the first time," the third overall pick in the National Lacrosse League entry draft said with a grin. "I certainly [didn't] just lay there."

He'll get a chance to score his first NLL goal at 7:30 tonight when the Bandits (1-2) host the Minnesota Swarm (1-1) at HSBC Arena in a rematch of last season's playoff tilt.

He's not a lumbering defenseman whose role is to bully opposing snipers. Plenty of his teammates do that quite well. Rather, Bucktooth is a 6-foot-2, 191-pound forward who was a scorer at Syracuse University, with 68 goals and 111 points in four seasons.

But it's easy to see why Bucktooth is coach Darris Kilgour's kind of player.

"Aah, that's funny, he's not really a physical player," Kilgour said. "Brett helps us out with his athleticism. Teams that spread us out, like Philadelphia, sometimes give us problems. We needed to get more guys that can go to the net one-on-one. Brett is really good at that. He sees the floor well. And he has leadership ability."

Bucktooth grew up playing box lacrosse on the Onondaga Nation, south of Syracuse. While he became an All-American playing for the Orange, box remains his first love.

"I like playing defense, fighting for ground balls," Bucktooth said. "Turning a possession from defense to offense is where this team really excels and I think I can get up and down the floor pretty well. I like being able to hit and get a goal."

Bucktooth is the fourth consecutive member of a Bandits rookie class who figures to contribute immediately to the offense, joining the likes of A.J. Shannon (24 points as a first-year player in 2004), Delby Powless (44 in 2005) and Roger Vyse (15 in just six games of an injury-marred 2006).

"We've been restocking plus keeping a strong nucleus as we've gone along," said teammate John Tavares, who at 38 is 16 years Bucktooth's senior. "Brett's very athletic, quick and fast. He can score from inside or out, he's ambidextrous. He's a great addition."

Bucktooth has played summer ball with and against many of his Bandits teammates.

"He's got a weird release point," said Bandits goaltender Steve Dietrich, last season's NLL Most Valuable Player. "It's almost like a hook coming out of his stick but it's really not because he can fire it into the corners. He releases the ball from different angles and he's such a streaky guy, always on the move. He's not a set shooter so you have to be on the move. You can't get a really set look at him."

One thing Bucktooth is adjusting to is being one of the guys, not the man as he was last spring at Syracuse.

"I don't think it will be that tough," said Bucktooth, who has a half dozen teammates with 10 or more years of NLL experience. "I have a lot of respect for the guys who have been in this league. I'm not going to step on any toes. No one player is going to win a championship, it takes a team effort to do that. I'm ready to help out any way I can."

Through his first three games Bucktooth has four assists but hasn't lit the red light on any of his 23 shots.

"He's played very hard even if he hasn't seen the results yet," Kilgour said. "He's had two or three one-on-one situations with the goalie and I think he's trying to be a bit too fine. You can tell him to relax but that won't help. But it won't be long until he pots one."

Minnesota coach Duane Jacobs, who spent the last two years as a Bandits assistant, knows it's just a matter of time.

"He's going to figure it out sooner or later," Jacobs said. "Hopefully it isn't this weekend."


Bandits banter

The Bandits beat Minnesota, 11-10, on April 23 en route to a spot in the Champion's Cup final. . . . Kilgour said he's leaning toward giving Mike Thompson his fourth straight start in goal while Dietrich continues to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery. . . . Captain Rich Kilgour, who missed Saturday's game in Colorado with flu-like symptoms and the after-effects of a possible slight concussion, should be ready to play tonight.


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