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White, Bandits keep eyes on road ahead

It's been a difficult regular season for the Buffalo Bandits, and a difficult season to be their captain.

After all, this is the first time in his 10-year National Lacrosse League career that Chris White has been on a team with a losing record.

White and the rest of the Bandits will try to get one last win on their 2012 record tonight. That's when they will play the Stealth in Washington State (10:30 p.m., nll.com, Radio 1520 AM) as they turn the page on a disappointing year.

"We've created a culture in Buffalo. It's a winning culture," White said. "But we've had ups and downs this season."

The defender, who turned 32 on Thursday, has tried to keep the team focused on its goals. A captain in lacrosse is part locker room leader, part cheerleader, and part role model. The obvious comparison is to that of a captain in hockey, which puts a great deal of value on that role, unlike football or basketball. White says that's no coincidence.

"I grew up playing hockey," said the Peterborough, Ont., native. "I played college hockey, but I gave it up once I got drafted in the NLL. The two sports are very similar. A lot of Canadian kids play hockey in the winter and lacrosse in the summer."

The Bandits had a good captain in the past in Rich Kilgour, a Hall of Famer who retired after the 2009 season. White filled in when Kilgour missed games due to injuries, and thus was an obvious choice when the job opened up in 2010.

"I think they chose me as captain because I lead by example," said White, who played for Albany and San Jose before arriving in Buffalo in December 2004. "I'm not the most vocal guy on my teams. I let my actions on and off the floor do the talking. Being captain, I try to make sure that the team is ready for each game."

Assistant General Manager Derek Graham added, "Chris White has been a stellar captain since they put the letter on his shirt. We have [Scott] Self, who could be a captain. [Mat] Giles could be a captain. We have a lot of supporting staff. But Chris has been a rock, one to motivate guys and keep them marching forward."

That's particularly important with some of the younger players on the Buffalo roster. While the Bandits are mostly made up of veterans, they do have some players in their early 20s who need a pat on the back every so often.

"It's not a main focus, but I'm always there for the younger guys," White said. "The older guys were there for me at the start of my career. They would take me aside and give me a pep talk when I needed it. I definitely have got to keep that in mind.

"It is tough coming into the league. Now there are fewer teams, so it's tougher to crack the lineup. I try to keep it positive. Eventually, through hard work, they'll get better."

The Bandits come into tonight's game with a 6-9 record. That was good enough to grab a playoff spot, although reaching the postseason in a league that has eight of its nine teams in the playoffs is not a great accomplishment.

Otherwise, it's been something of a regular season to forget.

"The biggest frustration is our inconsistency," the veteran said. "One game we've looked great, the next game we've been pounded by eight goals. But we worked hard enough to get into the playoffs, and anything can happen now."

The Bandits go into the Washington game in an unusual situation. Their playoff seeding and first-round opponent aren't set yet, but tonight's result will have absolutely no effect on those matters. If Rochester beats Philadelphia tonight, the Knighthawks will be seeded second in the East and the Bandits will be fourth. If the Wings win, Philadelphia can finish no lower than second (and would be first with a Toronto loss to Edmonton) while Buffalo would be third and Rochester would be fourth.

Washington was eliminated from the playoff picture by the Bandits' win over Rochester last week, so tonight's game is a matchup of two teams with only pride on the line.

"We're professionals. We're paid to show up for every game," White said. "There's no point in giving a lackluster effort. We'll try to keep our good habits going into the playoffs."

Graham said the Bandits may try to rest veterans such as John Tavares and Tracey Kelusky tonight if possible. Darryl Gibson is expected to miss another game with a lower-body injury. Brandon Francis will serve the second game of his three-game suspension. Goalie Mike Thompson (sprained knee) will sit on the bench as Anthony Cosmo gets the start.

email: bbailey@buffnews.com