Knights bench key in three-game test

ERIC BENDER -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

Three games in three nights, particularly with two on the road, takes diligent planning.

First, says London Knights coach Dale Hunter, you have to be prepared physically and mentally "and you've got to have depth."

With road games tonight in Windsor and Saturday in Saginaw, Mich., sandwiching a home game at the John Labatt Centre tomorrow night against the Plymouth Whalers, the whole bench comes in to play.

"You try to use the whole bench and not use (key players) up, especially on (defence)," he said yesterday as the Knights (2-0) practised.

Hunter has found computers that do a running tally on each player's ice time a distinct aid, something he started using last season.

"Sometimes you don't realize how much they have been doing and you find that it's been a lot, or somebody you think you've had out there hasn't had much.

"You have to know who's fresh, especially in a third game."

But Hunter won't be keeping track of player minutes tonight and tomorrow as he sits out the third and fourth games of a four-game suspension for abuse of officials. He returns as bench boss Saturday in Saginaw.

The other factor about three games in as many nights is penalties.

"You don't want to take a lot of penalties," Hunter said. "If you do, you want to use your whole bench. Killing penalties takes strength."

The Knights allowed three power-play goals in 17 shorthanded situations in their opening two games, both against the Kitchener Rangers.

Hunter said the three games are important for the Knights because they are against Western Conference teams and winning the Midwest Division is a key to success and the road to the Memorial Cup, which the Knights will host.

Playing a trio of games will also be easier for Hunter's son Dylan, who is off to a strong start in the two games.

He is tied with teammate Rob Schremp and in third place overall in OHL scoring with two goals and three assists.

Last year, Dylan Hunter undertook a strict physical and dietary regimen that produced a sleeker forward than the pudgy model he had become.

"I've carried it on this year, but changed it a bit," he said. "This year, the cardio was already there."

Now the emphasis is even stronger on strength and endurance and he's on the same program as Corey Perry, with whom he works out.

"It's unbelievable the benefits," said Hunter, 19.

"Before, I was tired by the time a third game came. I can tell the difference now in a third game."


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