Backing buds has price

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

There were times last season when the London Knights didn't rush to a teammate's aid quick enough.

That isn't a problem this year.

They do it all the time.

It's what tight-knit teams do.

But there have been consequences.

In Brampton last week, Phil Varone stepped in to engage big Stephon Thorne after the Battalion forward threw Daniel Erlich to the ice.

Varone was hurt in the encounter and has missed the last three games.

When will he be back?

"Phil hasn't skated yet and until he does, you never know how long it's going to be," said Knights GM Mark Hunter.

The Knights are also waiting on Zac Rinaldo's eligibility.

The London forward sat out his club's 3-2 win in Sault Ste. Marie on Sunday night. The victory ended the Knights' lone losing streak -- a three-gamer -- this season.

Rinaldo is facing OHL discipline again for a punch that sent Saginaw's Barry Sanderson to the hospital for examination Saturday night in Michigan.

The Philadelphia Flyers prospect took exception to Sanderson belting one of his teammates midway through the first period of a 3-2 London loss.

According to some observers, Sanderson had engaged Rinaldo. It was a case of Rinaldo's punch landing first.

Rinaldo was given a match penalty for an attempt to deliberately injure an opponent.

Sanderson didn't receive a fighting major.

The pair have a history.

They fought two seasons ago when Rinaldo was with Mississauga and Sanderson was a Niagara IceDog.

Fortunately, it looks like Sanderson will be fine.

But a match penalty comes with a three-game suspension.

The OHL can choose to disregard it, view it as referee error and allow Rinaldo -- who has gone before the league before -- to return against Erie on Friday at the John Labatt Centre.

The league can call it three games, which means Rinaldo would be able to return Sunday night in Oshawa.

Or they could add on to the suspension and give Rinaldo at least four and maybe more.

The league has requested the video of the incident -- the Spirit home game wasn't on Rogers' OHL package -- and expects it to arrive early today.

Rinaldo's case is, right now, particularly intriguing because he was named to play for the OHL in the Canada-Russia Subway Super Series next Monday in Windsor.

It's his ticket to impress for a world junior camp invite.

Would Rinaldo be able to play the Russians if he were to be suspended four or more games by the OHL?

"It's premature to talk about it because a decision hasn't been made (about Rinaldo's discipline)," said OHL vice-president Ted Baker. "It (the Super Series) has not been defined in this instance."

In general, special events like the Super Series and the Top Prospects game don't figure into league suspensions.

So that's a bit of positive news for Rinaldo while he awaits his fate.

What's still bad news is the Knights' continuing struggle on the power play. After going 1-for-14 in Saginaw and the Sault, they've sunk to 17th in the 20-team league with the man advantage.

It didn't help that Nazem Kadri and Phil McRae, two veteran power-play mainstays, combined for all seven minor penalties the Knights took against the Greyhounds (Kadri five, McRae two).

The Knights still believe they have enough talent to turn around the power play. They're trying to give it more time before declaring it dead and in need of reinforcements.

"We're still just watching our team," Mark Hunter said. "We're going to see what happens. We feel we have the players here who can do it."

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca


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