Knights welcome back Prust

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

Brandon Prust hasn't seen a minute of ice time since his first shift in the third game of the season.

His injured ribs kept him off the ice for all but a few seconds of six games. It wasn't until this week that he could spend time in the London Knights training room.

Prust is a player everyone would have deemed one of the least expendable. He kills penalties, works the power play, provides a physical presence and exhibits quality leadership that's hard to find.

His appearance makes the team better defensively.

So it must be surprising and unnerving for teams to realize that despite the absence of such an important piece of the Knights puzzle, the club hardly missed a beat.

The Knights are 8-0 and only three wins from tying an OHL record for wins from the start of a season. They have the league's best power play and third-best penalty-killing and are the No. 1 team in the first release of the Canadian Hockey League rankings.

Corey Perry was selected CHL player of the week as he leads the OHL in scoring.

The Knights have clearly shown the enormous gap between the top team and those that aren't very good.

When a team is on this kind of roll, it's often difficult throwing a player back into the mix, at least immediately.

Not in this case. The popular Prust -- on and off the ice -- will be welcomed back with open arms. Even though the team is undefeated, the third-year player fills a huge void. He's immovable in front of the net on the power play and he's strong at getting the puck out of the corner.

And while his physical play might be hampered a little until he recovers completely, having Prust in the lineup will offer sober second thoughts to players who have taken some liberties with less physical Knights while Prust was on the mend.

Prust returns to the lineup tonight against Owen Sound at the John Labatt Centre. The Attack were touted as one of the more solid teams and even though they've had a rough time lately, they are much like the Knights, a talented, offensive team.

"It sucks watching all the guys play and not being out there," Prust said.

"You see . . . guys on the other teams running around and taking runs at guys. You want to be out there to do something about it."

Prust said he's feeling "almost 100 per cent," which is saying a great deal, considering the injury was so painful he had trouble getting in and out of his car. He couldn't sleep well. For a week he couldn't work out. Then he was reduced to riding a bike, not the usual vigorous training sessions he's used to.

"It's still a little tender but I have a pad I'll wear. I'll find out (tonight) what it feels like to hit guys."

Prust isn't sure where he'll fit in. He was with Perry and Dylan Hunter before he was hurt. Rick Steadman, a defensive forward, took Prust's spot on that line and since then Perry and Hunter have exploded -- they're first and second in league scoring.

Yesterday at practice, Prust skated with Rob Schremp and Rob Drummond. Not that any of this really matters. Knights coach Dale Hunter is known for shuffling his lines with the frequency of a Las Vegas card dealer.

Prust will make whatever line he plays on better and will fit in just fine.

"The first three games I watched they were a little bit sloppy, but the games last weekend they played great," he said. "It's just a question of getting used to each other. The team is playing very well."

Not so well that the Knights can't be much improved by Prust's return.

KNIGHTWATCH

Tonight: The Knights play the Owen Sound Attack at 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre

Tomorrow: vs. Soo Greyhounds at 7 p.m. at the JLC

Streaking: London has won eight straight to open the season. The OHL mark for consecutive wins at the start is 11, by the 1992-93 Peterborough Petes and 1995-96 Guelph Storm

What's ahead: Game 11, Oct. 22 vs. Mississauga at the JLC; Game 12, Oct. 23 at Owen Sound


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