Tonight at The Spectrum in Philadelphia, the Baltimore Thunder will get a chance to see what it's missing.
When the Thunder visits the Wings at 8 p.m., it will mark the debut of Paul and Gary Gait in Philadelphia uniforms.
The Major Indoor Lacrosse League decided last summer to move the twin superstars, who live in Baltimore, from the Detroit Turbos to an East Coast team in keeping with a league guideline that players' teams be near where they live. Many believed that team would be the Thunder, but the league chose the Wings, mainly because of The Spectrum's large seating capacity and television capabilities.
The Gaits, who led Syracuse to three straight NCAA championships from 1988 to 1990 and led the Detroit Turbos to the MILL title in 1991, were the top two goal scorers in the league last season.
Tonight, they will face a Thunder defense that allowed 18.4 goals per game last season, and gave up 17 in an 18-17 season-opening win over the Boston Blazers on Saturday.
"You never shut [the Gaits] down," said Thunder coach John Stewart. "But you may slow them down. We have a number of defenses [designed to stop the Gaits]. How well we succeed depends on how well we execute."
Thunder forward John Tucker, who played for the Wings for six seasons, agrees that the Gaits can't be stopped.
"In my opinion, the Gaits are the best indoor lacrosse players around," said Tucker. "They'll get their goals, but our best chance of winning is to contain them."
The Thunder also will rely on first-year goalie David Lee, who, like the Gaits, is from British Columbia.
"The [MILL] is totally different from the Canadian leagues he was playing in," said Stewart. "He was just getting his feet wet against Boston, but in the end he really saved us."
Lee stopped 45 of 60 shots against Boston, including a one-on-one save late in the game with the Thunder clinging to a one-goal lead.
On the other side of the field, the new and improved Thunder offense will be tested by Philadelphia goalie Dallas Eliuk, who ranked second in the league last season with 39.0 saves per game.
"The Gaits will be a factor, but how well we do against [Eliuk] is critical," said Stewart. "We've never had great success against him."
During the off-season, the Thunder made several moves to help the offense. Veterans Tucker and Ricky Sowell, who finished fifth and seventh, respectively, in scoring last year, put off off-season retirement plans; defenseman Jim Huelskamp was traded to the Pittsburgh Bulls for forward Butch Marino; and Ricky Fried was acquired from Philadelphia for a third-round draft pick.
"Eliuk has the capability to shut down a good-shooting team," said Stewart. "But we've got a lot of guys who can carry the offensive load."