Knights goalies await their roles

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

Still no word from the London Knights on who will be in goal tomorrow night when they open the OHL Western Conference final against the Kitchener Rangers.

"We talked about it and haven't decided yet," Knights assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu said after yesterday's practice. "The goalie will be told (today)."

The Rangers have no choice but to go with career backup Eric Pfligler as veteran Dan Turple is still sidelined with a shoulder injury.

Goaltending will be critical as the Knights and Rangers boast great offences and the top two scorers in the playoffs.

Corey Perry leads London with seven goals and 14 assists in eight games. Michael Richards tops Kitchener with eight goals and 13 assists in 10 games.

The Knights swept the six-game season series with Kitchener and saw Pfligler once.

The 19-year-old spent last season with Saginaw after signing as a free agent. He won two of his 26 starts with the Spirit.

Turple played against the Knights four times.Gerald Coleman played four of the games against Kitchener.

The Knights swept their way to the conference final, while the Rangers are riding an eight-game winning streak. Pfligler played all eight after Turple left in Game 3 of a first-round series with Erie.

"He's won eight in a row and that's a credit to the young kid," Knights head coach Dale Hunter said during yesterday's media conference call organized by the league.

"He must have been preparing for this."

Word is circulating that Turple is finished for the playoffs.

"I don't think that's accurate," said Rangers coach Peter DeBoer. "He's in the rehab process. We're going on four weeks, so it is a pretty significant shoulder injury."

Pfligler, from the Chicago area (the same as Coleman), has a 1.86 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage in the postseason after appearing in 17 regular-season games for Kitchener.

"It's good to see that kind of story -- he's stepped in and done a good job for them," said Knights captain Danny Syvret.

Much of the spotlight in this series will be on Perry and Richards, teammates with the Canadian junior squad that struck gold at the world championship in Grand Forks, N.D.

DeBoer said because the Knights are so deep at forward, he likely won't assign Richards to shadow Perry.

"Do you have any ideas?" DeBoer said with a chuckle when asked during the conference call how he might go about containing the Knights.

"I wish we could concentrate on one or two players. In some of the series we've played that might have been the case, but London's depth is second to none in Canadian major junior. We'd be making a mistake to concentrate on one or two guys."

A Perry-Richards matchup is intriguing. The two gained a lot of respect for each other while playing for the Canadian juniors.

"Corey is a great player," said Richards, who captains the Rangers and wore the C for Canada. "He always seems to find the openings on the ice.

"He's very dedicated to his team and his will to win is what makes him dangerous on the ice."

Richards said the Rangers have to stay on top of Perry.

"You've got to play him close because with his hands he can shoot the puck really well. And we have to try to get him off his game just like he'll try to knock us off our game."

DeBoer couldn't talk enough about what Richards means to the Rangers. DeBoer was also an assistant coach with the Canadian juniors.

"Mike is obviously the heartbeat of our club. He has been almost since he walked in here four years ago," DeBoer said.

"We obviously go as he goes. He's not only our on-ice leader, he's our off-ice leader. He's a proven winner, a proven champion. He has a Memorial Cup ring (Kitchener won in 2003) and a world junior ring.

"He knows at this time of the year what has to be said and what has to be done. The guys in the room are real comfortable following his lead."

Syvret, also a teammate of Richards with the national juniors, said all the hype surrounding the Knights hasn't lessened their determination to win the franchise's first OHL crown.

"We've been talked up a lot . . . and as Memorial Cup host we know we're in . . . but we want to win the OHL championship and stay on top."


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