Teams target skilled Knights

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:51 PM ET

Last Saturday, London's star David Bolland was on the receiving end of a wicked elbow from Barrie's Bryan Little.

On Wednesday, the Soo Greyhounds took a couple of goalie interference penalties while charging the crease of Knights puck-stopper Adam Dennis.

London forward and OHL leading scorer Rob Schremp knows he could be next. The Knights are fully aware they must protect their big guns at all costs in order to make another long playoff run this year.

"We have a lot of skilled guys and you do have a bigger target on your back when other teams think they have a better chance to win if you're not in the lineup," Schremp said. "But you don't worry about that kind of stuff. It's something David, Dylan Hunter and I have dealt with since we were 12 years old, so we're used to it. There's not much you can do but play your game, take a number and get them back later."

Of course, no hockey teams want their best players taking matters into their own hands and spending extra time in the penalty box, so there are always designated guys to do that dirty work. Just look at Pittsburgh, where the NHL Penguins picked up Eric Cairns this week to ride shotgun with phenom Sidney Crosby.

"We have guys who can take care of that stuff," Bolland said. "We don't want to play that way, but we don't want teams thinking they can do whatever they want to us. We saw it last year (with Corey Perry) that guys were running him, and it makes it tough, but you have to play through that stuff."

Bolland's most recent case, however, was an odd one because he was hit by a guy not normally known for the rough stuff.

"Josh Beaulieu isn't going to go out and fight a Bryan Little, who's a skilled player," Schremp said. "But we're glad guys like Beau and (Jordan Foreman) are there for us if things do get out of hand."

London head coach Dale Hunter has long contested that if teams go after his stars, he is going to keep sending them out on the ensuing power plays. The Knights have the best power-play unit in the OHL and have operated at a 30 per cent success rate all season.

"I'd say our power play is right up there. It could be NHL-calibre," Schremp said with a grin. "It helps that Dylan, David and I have played together for three years. We know what we're doing out there.

"We didn't score in the Soo on the power play, but we created a lot of chances and their goalie (Kyle Gajewski) made some saves. That's going to happen. You can't score every night, but we created well and that's what you're looking for."

When the hooking and holding heats up down the stretch and in the playoffs, the Knights are relying on the referees to continue calling the infractions.

"With our team, we want to be on the power play," assistant coach Jeff Perry said. "You leave it up to the referees and trust they'll make the calls. I remember being on the other side in Sarnia (Perry is a former Sarnia coach) and trying to defend it and it's not easy.

"For the past few years, the personnel has been here to make the power play work and we're just trying to keep it going."


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