London stars earn rest

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

A couple weeks ago, it looked like Sunday's regular season-ending game between the London Knights and the Kitchener Rangers would turn into a tilt for the top seed in the OHL's Western Conference.

But that was before the Knights reeled off 13 straight wins and dropped all the drama from the final weekend of the regular schedule.

Instead, London will begin resting a portion of its lineup this coming weekend so the Knights will be healthy and ready to go for next week's first playoff round against Windsor or Sault Ste. Marie.

"We'll start looking at a few of our young guys and I'm sure so will Kitchener in that game," London Knights assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu said. "We won't take everybody with us to Erie (on Saturday). We'll dress our big guys on Sunday because it's a home game, but they'll probably only play on the power play. We don't want them penalty-killing and blocking shots and getting hurt."

London got a head start on its rest schedule by leaving veteran goalie Adam Dennis behind on Saturday while the team won 3-1 in Owen Sound with a sparkling Steve Mason in net.

"I didn't find out that Adam wasn't coming until just before (we got on the bus)," said Mason, who started for Petrolia last night in their Western junior B semifinal game. "It just showed that the coaches had confidence in going with me and that was nice to see."

Besides giving Mason a shot in the arm, London gave Dennis a chance to heal lingering bumps and bruises and recharge mentally.

"There's nothing like being able to relax at home," Beaulieu said. "When you're on the road, you're on the bus and you aren't able to stretch out so it's better to just leave the guys back. The older guys are pretty good at knowing what they have to do to be successful."

The Knights will be rewarded for wrapping up the Western Conference with shorter practices and spending even less time at the rink.

"At this point, it's about rest and fine-tuning," Beaulieu said. "The first thing we'll do is cut down the length of our practices. Guys who play a lot will only skate 35 minutes a day and the guys who don't play as much will skate for an hour and that's it."

London's coaching staff, however, will be busy scouting both the Spitfires and Greyhounds.


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