Offensive defencemen a boon to Knights

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:06 AM ET

In this era of decreasing offence, having a defenceman who can score 20 goals is a big bonus.

Having two is unlikely.

But in this year of firsts for the London Knights, why not another?

As far as anyone can tell, the Knights have never had two 20-goal defenceman on the same team. They do now.

Danny Syvret has 21 goals. Bryan Rodney has 20. Between them, they have 119 points.

The Knights defeated the Erie Otters 5-1 last night in an Ontario Hockey League game that exemplified just how important the two of them are.

It's almost ludicrous now to think that at the end of last season there was concern about how the Knights were going to replace Dennis Wideman.

Wideman ran the show on the blue-line. He ran the power play and got enough ice time for two players.

With Wideman graduated, assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu was asked who was going to replace him.

"We think Danny Syvret will be able to step in and do it," Beaulieu said then.

No one really thought Syvret could because he'd been so overshadowed by Wideman.

How right Beaulieu turned out to be.

Syvret took over without missing a beat.

But when Rodney became available, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Knights general manager Mark Hunter made a deal to get the over-ager from Kingston.

"There were a lot of people who second-guessed us bringing him here," Beaulieu said, since Rodney was coming to the more physical Western Conference. "He's showing his character."

The Knights got an all-star defenceman with experience and offensive ability. He's been outstanding all season, but during the last month he's been lighting it up. He has eight points in his last four games.

Rodney has always had a lot of points but his highest goal total was 11.

"If it stopped right now, I'd be fine," Rodney said.

But his value to the Knights is more than just points. He takes pressure off Syvret and his ability to work with any of the defencemen gives Beaulieu flexibility.

"Bryan has been outstanding," Beaulieu said. "He's been better than we thought. "

Rodney and Syvret give the Knights a dominant power play. It's something they'll need going into the playoffs because most teams in the OHL realize that in order to beat London they will have to play a bump-and-grind type of game.

If a team can get away with taking penalties, it will continue to play a tough, physical game. But if it is punished, it will have to change its style.

Ask the Otters how effective the Knights power play can be.

The Otters didn't play a particularly physical game but they took a number of penalties, many of the silly variety. The Knights scored four power-play goals, putting the game out of reach quickly.

Erie isn't considered a slouch by any stretch of the imagination. The Otters are eight games above .500. But the Knights made the win seem easy.

Rodney and Syvret will provide a dilemma for any team facing the Knights.

Opponents will have no respite when it comes to killing penalties and with Syvret and Rodney pairing with Marc Methot and Dan Girardi, there will always be an offensively gifted defenceman on the ice.

It's a combination any team hoping to beat the Knights will have to stop.


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