You can't keep a good team down

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

You know the hockey season is enjoyable when not even back surgery can keep you away from the rink.

London Knights assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu went under the knife Monday to have a plastic disc inserted in his back to repair a damaged disc. He was suffering numbness in his arm and leg.

The procedure involved making an incision in the upper chest near the throat and going into the back.

That sounds like a good couple of weeks on the shelf, but yesterday Beaulieu was answering the telephone in the coach's office at the John Labatt Centre.

"I feel real good," he said. "I have a four-inch laceration below my throat. It's whatever I can tolerate. I just wanted to get back. I'll be back on skates next week."

He missed Monday's game in Sarnia. The Knights play the Erie Otters tonight and the Saginaw Spirit tomorrow, both at the JLC.

Who would want to miss any of this season? The Knights have a chance to set two more records over the next two games. They are 53-5-2-0 for 108 points, matching their 53 wins of last season, which is one short of the OHL record set by the 1984-85 Soo Greyhounds.

The Knights have eight games left. They set the record for points last season with 110.

Records are nice but there's other business to take care of. Over the past few games, the Knights have been given a glimpse of what to expect in the playoffs. Teams will attempt to offset their offensive ability by playing a tight defensive game while trying to pound them physically.

"The next eight games will be good preparation for the playoffs," said head coach Dale Hunter. "They want to offset our skill. Everyone tries different things. It's not a bad thing. We have to learn to adjust."

The Knights will most likely draw the Guelph Storm in the first round. There won't be many surprises with the Storm. They play tight defensively with plenty of physical play. The Storm also enjoy success against the Knights power play. Rather than sit back in a standard box, the Storm attack the puck carrier.

Hunter expects all the teams they face from here until the end of the regular season will play a physical game.

"The only thing about the physical game is you have to be careful because if you take penalties, we have a good power play," he said. "Teams can't take stupid penalties against us."

One way to keep teams from running at you is to score on the power play.

With the OHL regular- season championship salted away, the Knights have only to worry about records and playoff preparation.

There are some games when the Knights are only doing as much as they need to do to win.

"I can see they're anxious to start the playoffs," Hunter said. "They've proved themselves in the regular season and they want to prove themselves in the playoffs.

"But you have to prepare. I don't believe you can go into the playoffs playing badly and just turn on a switch to play well again. We have to go in firing on all cylinders."

Hunter will keep a close eye on his top players. He doesn't want them to wear out.

"If they have the flu or a little injury, they won't play," he said. "It would be different if we were trying to win a championship or looking for home-ice advantage. They'd probably play, but not now."

He'll have an additional body available tonight. Forward Brandon Prust, out 14 games with a broken jaw, is back.

But where Prust will fit in is anyone's guess. Hunter takes a unique approach to putting lines together. Instead of putting three players on a line, he usually keeps two together. Corey Perry plays with Dylan Hunter, Danny Fritsche and Rob Schremp are spending time together, while Prust and David Bolland will pair up.

Hunter then inserts others until he finds a combination that works that night.

You can't knock the results.


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