The London Knights will be missing some grit when they take on rival Windsor Spitfires tonight and Sarnia Sting on Sunday.
The OHL upheld London forward Josh Beaulieu's two-game suspension for being involved in a second fight during the same stoppage of play in the final minute of the Knights' 9-5 win in Oshawa on Sunday.
Oshawa goalie Carlo DiRienzo, who started the ruckus by attacking London's A. J. Perry, and Generals skater Gary Friesen, who fought with Beaulieu, also received two-game suspensions.
"You want to be in there playing, especially against the hometown team," said Beaulieu, 18, of Comber, near Windsor. "The league did what it felt it had to do. They have to draw the line somewhere. But I'm not going to stand around while they're ganging up on our guys. You have to do something."
Beaulieu missed the first five games of the season for bullying. Normally, London could plug Kelly Thomson into its tough-guy role but the 20-year-old can't play while the Knights' other three over-agers -- Frank Rediker, Dylan Hunter, Adam Dennis -- are in the lineup.
"I don't think (Beaulieu's suspension) was warranted," Dennis said yesterday. "You could argue in that one there wasn't a first fight. Josh saw Carlo go after A. J. and everyone piled on. You want Beau (Beaulieu) in the lineup. Guys like that make our other guys feel bigger and no one starts taking shots at our top guys."
Though Beaulieu's out of the picture again, defenceman Matt McCready, a Tecumseh native, will make his return to the Knights blue-line tonight. The 18-year-old missed a month with a broken bone in his hand and his presence will help take pressure off London's top unit of Rediker and Scott Aarssen.
This will be the fourth game between London and Windsor this season and Dennis decided to give the Spitfires a different look after quickly breaking in a new pair of pads this week. The Bauer-issued gear is largely white, which appears bigger to the shooter.
"It only takes me four or five days to break in a new pair," he said. "I had my Koho pads, but Bauer's been great to me and making equipment right to my specifications. They're 12-inch (wide) pads so I'll use them this year and break in a pair of 11-inch pads (for pro hockey) over the summer."
Most hockey players don't like to change equipment when they're going well and Dennis is 10-1 with a 3.55 goals-against average since returning from pro camp in Rochester. That lone loss was in Windsor, a 6-4 decision that stopped London's 23-game unbeaten streak against the Spits.
Windsor goalie Anthony Guadagnolo, who beat London in his Spitfires' debut, is 2-1 with a 3.67 average since his arrival in a trade with Ottawa. He is the only goalie to keep the high-scoring Knights under seven goals in the last seven games.
Tonight: vs. Windsor, 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre
Sunday: vs. Sarnia, 2 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre