Knights' power failure troubling

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:23 PM ET

As the London Knights power play goes south, rivals in the OHL Western Conference head north in the standings.

The power play was one-for-six last night in a 3-2 win over the Sarnia Sting -- and even though it leads the league, that's nine-for-49 in the past six games.

There's no immediate panic, but the remedy isn't as simple as last season when the Knights had many more weapons to put out there.

That lack of depth may be catching up to them as they employ one unit -- Rob Schremp, David Bolland, Dylan Hunter, Sergei Kostitsyn and Adam Perry -- with every man advantage.

The Fab Five plays the entire two minutes. Is it fatigue, or have teams figured it out?

"I don't think we're concerned," said assistant coach Jeff Perry. "We know the skill level is pretty good there and these players are pretty smart. They're able to adjust.

"It's just that normally your best penalty killer is your goalie and that's what we've run into lately. We look at the quality scoring chances on the power play and we're continuing to get those."

The brain trust knows there's work to be done and a few new wrinkles were evident in the power play last night.

"Down the stretch we'll try some different looks and instead of just the five guys, we'll do a few different things," Perry said in addressing the fatigue factor.

"But for the most part on the power play you're on puck possession, so you are doing less work than on the penalty kill. They are on the ice for two minutes, but they aren't worked as much.

"And we certainly pride ourselves with our conditioning here. These players have trained hard off the ice, so that allows them to play the minutes they are playing. But we'll adjust as we go."

Schremp figures there's a familiarity factor.

"We play teams so many times, they're going to figure it out. They know exactly where you're going to be," he said. "It's like our penalty killers going against our power play unit in practice. We never score on them because they know exactly what we're going to do.

"It's the same thing against conference rivals like Sarnia and Windsor. We just have to make adjustments."

Schremp said numbers like nine-for-49 can be deceptive.

"If you're not watching the game, you think the statistics look like crap. But if you're watching the game, you know we had tons of opportunities.

"Sometimes great goaltending kills you. But if you get on the power play and you keep a team in their own zone for two minutes, that's what you want because it's going to wear down their top guys.

"And that's what we've been doing lately."

Schremp assisted on the third-period power-play goal last night to register the third-fastest 100-point season in OHL history. He has 38 goals and 62 assists in 37 games.

The record is held by Bobby Smith, who recorded his 100th point in his 33rd game in 1977-78 with the Ottawa 67's.

Wayne Gretzky got his 100th point in his 34th game that season with the Soo Greyhounds, and Jim Fox did it in 34 games in '79-80 with Ottawa.

"It's pretty neat," Schremp said of being in the same company as Smith and Gretzky. "It's an honour to be mentioned with those names, but I really haven't paid too much attention. The last couple of weeks have been kind of tough. We're just squeaking out wins, so the points aren't really that big of deal to me now. It's getting the two points. Come March, we're going to need those points."

But the sense of accomplishment wasn't lost on him.

"It's really cool. I'm pretty proud of that. I thought maybe somebody like (former Mississauga IceDogs teammate) Patrick O'Sullivan would have done it before me."

It is the fastest an American-born player has reached that plateau.

"I think as a hockey player on the ice," Schremp said. "I don't think of myself out there as an American. I'm just playing for the love of the game."

Now, the Knights would love to get their power play firing.


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