The Lizards know what they have in Paul Rabil -- a two-time Major League Lacrosse MVP who is second on the team with 38 points (19 goals). But the true extent of his impact on the Lizards was difficult to quantify until recently.
With Rabil in the lineup, the Lizards set a franchise record with their 8-0 start. But with Rabil watching from the sideline with a lower body injury, the team dropped its next two games.
"It's one of those things where the whole team dynamic changes," Lizards coach Joe Spallina said. "All of a sudden you're relying on the second guys to become the first option, and the third options to become the second options. Lot of role changes come from that, and that sort of disrupts what we've been building all season."
When the Lizards play at the Chesapeake Bayhawks at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, it should no longer be an issue -- Rabil is set to suit up, and said he feels ready to "continue to contribute to the organization in any way I can."
"It's always really difficult to watch your teammates battle from the sidelines," the 29-year-old offseason acquisition said. "Up until this point in my career, I've been really fortunate to have had a great run of health. Dating back to my freshman year in 2008 at Johns Hopkins, I've only missed one game leading up to this 2015 season."
That fact has left Rabil eager to step back into the lineup and pick up where he left off.
"It's incredibly challenging to have an unblemished record in pro sports," Rabil said. "For every consecutive week you win, your next opponent becomes even more hungry to knock you off. Credit to this team starting 8-0. I think it's fair to say we have a target on our backs, and we faced two really hungry teams in Charlotte and Florida. We didn't play our best ball on offense or defense, and are fortunate to have such great goaltending and draw play despite the losses -- two great signs moving forward."
It's a matter of getting back into a rhythm for the Lizards.
"I expect us to get back to what won us eight games," said Greg Gurenlian, who has won 200 of 262 faceoffs this season. "Taking care of the ball, trusting each other to take care of themselves and their individual matchup, and have each others back at all times."