Despite finishing first overall again, Adam Dennis doesn't feel the London Knights have proven anything to the rest of the OHL.
"Not a thing. Not yet," the veteran London Knights goaltender said. "Finishing first (and being ranked first in the Canadian Hockey League) doesn't mean a thing if we don't go on a long playoff run. If we lose out early, all the 'I told you so' talk will be back."
Dennis, who is scheduled to start tonight against the Windsor Spitfires at the John Labatt Centre, wants to enter his second post-season with London on a good note and make up for a sub-par performance in a 5-4 overtime victory over Erie last Sunday night.
"It's more on a personal and mental level that you want to go into the playoffs strong," Dennis said. "We have a lot of work left -- we want to create the same feeling (in London) like we did last year. I played in Guelph and it was a lot of fun, but it was nothing compared to what it's like here when everyone gets excited.
"Last year, all of the guys were treated like celebrities and that's a big thing when you're playing junior hockey."
For several first-year Knights, earning a trip to Moncton in May for the Memorial Cup will help them put their own signature on a city and set them apart last year's powerhouse squad.
"There's quite a few guys here who haven't been to the Memorial Cup and we want to have that feeling, too," London native and rookie forward Matt Clarke said. "We got to see what happened last year with this team and we are going to do everything we can to get back there again."
The final three games of the regular season are most important to players like Clarke, who should have a chance to play increased minutes and earn more of the coaches' trust for playoff time. Cut from the same mould as veteran Trevor Kell, Clarke has also been considered as a convert from forward to defence in an emergency situation.
"I'm a pretty good backwards skater and if it has to be done, I'll do anything to help this hockey club," the 17-year-old said. "These last three games are big for the younger guys because we get a chance to prove ourselves, not just for ice time in the playoffs, but for next year, too.
"We're going to have a lot of guys gone next year and the rest of us are playing for those spots. If you don't work hard, you're going to be sitting on the bench."
It was odd to see London rookie defenceman Scott Aarssen, who has logged major minutes this season, sitting on the bench for much of last Sunday's victory over Erie. The 17-year-old hopped back onto the ice in overtime and managed to set up David Bolland's short-handed, breakaway game-winner.
"It was just because I hurt my leg and Jacques (assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu) didn't want to take any chances with playoffs coming up," Aarssen said. "I don't know what the plan is for this weekend but if they need me in all three games, I'll be out there."
In terms of individual records, Rob Schremp needs two assists to tie Dennis Ververgaert for the Knights single-season leader in that category. London captain Dylan Hunter requires three points to pass Dennis Maruk for fourth on the team's all-time points list and David Bolland will have to score four goals to become the Knights first 60-goal man since Dave Lowry in 1984-85.
Tonight: Vs. Windsor, 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre
Tomorrow: At Erie, 7:30 p.m. at Tullio Arena
Sunday: Vs. Kitchener, 6 p.m. at the JLC