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Knee injury likely to keep kicker out of playoffs

The Storm advanced to the playoffs, but one of its most important players likely will be left behind.

Kicker Mike Black is expected to miss the rest of the season after injuring his right (kicking) knee in a 67-61 victory over Georgia on Saturday at the Ice Palace.

The initial diagnosis was a torn anterior cruciate ligament, which requires about six months recovery time. Black is scheduled for an MRI exam today.

"He is out," coach Tim Marcum said. "The doctor pretty well knows that the ACL is torn."

The team contacted former Chicago, Buffalo and Albany placekicker Pete Elezovic and ex-Florida and Albany kicker Don Silvestri and hopes to sign a replacement by Thursday. Tampa Bay plays Saturday at Los Angeles.

"I'm happy to see our team in the playoffs," Black said. "The kicker they sign will probably do a good job."

Black was knocked sideways during Markeith Cooper's 55-yard touchdown return in the first quarter, and his cleat caught in the turf. After looking at the knee, a couple of doctors told Black he probably had torn the ACL.

"Of course, I didn't really believe them at first," Black said. "I stood up and tried to move it side to side, and it gave out on me. I said, "Okay, I'm out.' "

Quarterback Scott Milanovich made 1 of 3 extra-point attempts in Black's place. Two of six kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.

"Scott did a nice job for us stepping up," Marcum said. "How many people can do that? Not many."

STICKING WITH SHANE: Milanovich took another step in his recovery from a bruised rotator cuff by practicing each day last week.

But Marcum said Shane Stafford, who is 3-1 in his past four starts, earned the right to start against Los Angeles.

"I really believe that Shane has matured a lot," Marcum said. "He's seeing a lot of things. He's seeing second and third reads, and we're doing a pretty good job of protecting him."

Milanovich, 2-2 as a starter, will back up Stafford. Todd Bankhead also is available.

"I believe if called upon and if needed, (Milanovich) would respond accordingly," Marcum said.

COMING TOGETHER: The strength is beginning to return to offensive/defensive lineman Torry Epps' injured knee, but Marcum is reluctant to tinker with a line (Sai Poulivaati, Rod Williams and Eric Thomas) that allowed one sack in the past two games.

"I think what we've been doing has worked pretty good for a while," Marcum said.

SHE'LL BE MISSED: Vice president of football operations Nathalie Bertrand is leaving after the season to join her husband, Michael, in private business.

Bertrand has been with the Storm for 11 seasons, more than anyone in the organization. She was rewarded for her years of service with a framed jersey at halftime of Saturday's game.

"She runs this place," Marcum said. "She does it all, from the insurance to the keeping of the books to payroll to everything. She has been so valuable to the organization."

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