Prust sidelined for month

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:27 PM ET

London Knights head coach Dale Hunter remembers Brandon Prust's exact words when he came to training camp in 2002 as a walk-on. "Basically he told us, 'Get me in the lineup and I'll never come out.' Well, guess what?" Hunter said last night.

The only way to get Prust out of the lineup during the last three seasons has been through injury and for the second time this season the 20-year-old, first-line left-winger is on the shelf.

Prust, second in OHL penalty minutes with 156, will be lost for a month after suffering a hairline fracture of the jaw during a game in Kingston on Jan. 21. He never missed a shift that night and played two days later in Ottawa, even getting into a fight.

"I remember taking an elbow in the Kingston game and it bothered me all weekend when I would eat," Prust said. "I never really thought it was too serious, just something wrong with my teeth."

X-rays were taken Monday and the Knights got the official word yesterday. He'll be evaluated on an ongoing basis during the next couple of weeks with the possibility of playing with a full cage, "but more likely it'll be four weeks, just to be safe," Prust said.

He missed five games in October with a rib injury.

"I'll use this time to work out and get in tip-top shape and even get stronger for the playoffs (that begin the week of March 21)," he said.

Prust has nine goals and 23 points in 40 games.

"He's a key guy for us, a leader, a worker and he's playing very well for us," Hunter said. "We're going to miss him, but you know what, it's part of the game."

Prust was a third-round pick of the Calgary Flames in the 2004 NHL draft and almost got a contract at training camp. But the lockout made for a glut of players in the minor leagues and the Flames felt it better he return to London.

Flames scouting director Todd Button was at last night's game against Sarnia.

"We gave the AHL serious consideration, but we felt with the Memorial Cup here and for sure they're going to be in it, that it would be really good for his development to play in that type of situation," Button said. "It's a great program they're running here and they're the top team in the country and everything he's gone through is going to help him down the road developing that mentality in learning how to win."

Button said he's seen Prust play four games this season "and I see the same things we drafted him for -- the hard work, the diligence, the physical play when he needs to, the corner work, standing up for his teammates when he has to.

"There's nothing different, although sometimes we have to remind him not to be so fancy . . . he's a straight-line player, a hard-driving player and the more he does that, the more successful he'll be."

Button said he did a background check on Prust.

"His character and his leadership are one of the reasons we drafted him so high. We went back and talked to his ex-coaches and I never heard a bad word about the kid."


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