Knights' defence tired lot

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

After assisting on the game-winning goal yesterday against the Kitchener Rangers, London defenceman Ryan Martinelli sat at his dressing room stall feeling both elated and exhausted.

"We needed that one," the 19-year-old London native said. "I'm pretty tired. A few of us logged a lot of ice time out there. It's been like that for a while. Getting Rob Schremp and David Bolland back has been so big for us."

Martinelli and rookie defenceman Scott Aarssen have been pleasant surprises on the Knights' blue line this season, but they have been asked to play a lot of minutes against some of the opposition team's best offensive units.

Already thin from Frank Rediker's ongoing knee injury and the deal that sent Matt McCready and Steve Ferry to Sarnia for Matt Pelech, the Knights would love to beef up their blue line before tomorrow night's trade deadline for another Memorial Cup run.

With Kitchener in town yesterday, the Knights got a close-up look at the OHL's top defence. London won 4-3 in overtime, but there were prolonged segments of the game where the Knights had trouble getting the puck out of their own end.

"Defence is definitely the weakness of our team," London assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu said. "We're looking for another defenceman, but it has to be a good deal for us. But it helps that we have what we feel are the top two forward lines in the league and we're going to play those guys as much as possible.

"We're able to rest our (defencemen) during the power play and a lot on the penalty kill, which is great, because we need them out there for five-on-five."

If London can't reel in another quality defenceman, it will have to hope the 20-year-old Rediker returns to the lineup on a full-time basis and Pelech plays himself into shape.

"It really hurts us with Frank out. We need him in there to give us some quality minutes," Beaulieu said. "Matt, I got to see a little bit so far, and he needs to improve his conditioning. He has had some injuries in the past, but we need him to be playing 20 solid minutes every game."

Beaulieu, who was an assistant coach with fifth-place Team Ontario at the recent world under-17 challenge, said Knights first-rounder and rookie defenceman Corey Syvret performed well at the tournament in Saskatchewan.

"He was real solid and did a good job at the back end -- he was steady," Beaulieu said. "(London native and Guelph Storm rookie) Drew Doughty was also great to watch play. There's a lot of upside to Drew."

With the trade deadline looming, many teams have already been active and more moves are expected. London is definitely in a buyer's mood and Kitchener would love to add another quality scorer to supplement star Evan McGrath.

To kick off the activity, Windsor moved disgruntled rookie first-round forward Akim Aliu yesterday to the Sudbury Wolves for Keaton Turkiewicz, Jordan Cheechoo and a second-rounder in 2007.


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