Knights sharpen focus

ERIC BENDER -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

Now the grind begins.

The London Knights resumed regular practice yesterday at the John Labatt Centre in preparation for the OHL Western Conference final against the Kitchener Rangers beginning Thursday in London.

"It was nice to have some time off," Knights assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu said. The Knights polished off the Windsor Spitfires in the conference semifinals on Wednesday in a sweep.

The Knights "rode the bike" Thursday and had a fun practice Friday. Beaulieu said. "They had four-on-four teams and picked their own teams and had fun."

Saturday was a day off.

"Half of them went home to their families," he said. "It's always nice when half the team can go home for a day and have dinner with their families. Some played some golf.

"From here on in it's going to be a grind, every other day."

Starting today, the preparation for Kitchener will be specialized.

"We'll do a little piece at a time," Beaulieu said. "We'll do some zones (today) and look at their (Kitchener's) tendencies (tomorrow) and Wednesday it will be special teams and go through their team player by player. We'll look at videos, too."

A decision on a starting goalie for Thursday -- Gerald Coleman or Adam Dennis -- is expected tomorrow.

The Knights beat the Rangers in all six meetings this season but the Rangers have become a stronger team as the season progressed, particularly in the playoffs.

Beaulieu singles out captain Mike Richards as a key to the Rangers.

"They've got the (junior) Team Canada captain," he said. "He's a character player and gritty. If he leads the way, they are going to follow."

Beaulieu said the Knights view Kitchener as a well-coached offensive team that "plays hard and goes to the net hard.

"It's a matter of us executing our team's plan."

While the layoff of a week is a good reward for the work the Knights have put in to date this season and the landmark accomplishments along the way, the focus on the task at hand was apparent in yesterday's practice, Beaulieu said.

"No one is talking about the Memorial Cup. From Day 1, it's been our focus and goal to win the OHL. We don't want to go in to the Memorial Cup through the back door," he said.

The Knights have never won the OHL title and they want to achieve that, Beaulieu said.

London is in next month's Memorial Cup automatically as host team. If the Knights win the OHL championship, the team they beat for the title would qualify for the Cup as well.

Otherwise, the OHL champion will be the OHL representative in the national championship, with the Knights as host team.

OHL WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL

LONDON KNIGHTS VS. KITCHENER RANGERS

Thursday: at London, 7 p.m.

Saturday: at Kitchener, 7:30 p.m.

Monday, April 25: at London, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, April 27: at Kitchener, 7 p.m.

Friday, April 29: at London, 7:30 p.m., if nec.

Sunday, May 1: at Kitchener, 7 p.m., if nec.

Monday, May 2: at London, 7 p.m., if nec.


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