Knights eager to sweep Greyhounds

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET

The London Knights hope today's seven-hour bus ride to Sault Ste. Marie will be their last this season.

The Knights want no part of making the trek back to the Sault Memorial Gardens for a Game 6 in their OHL Western Conference quarter-final next Saturday. After being dominated at home by a hard-working, eighth-seeded squad in the third period on Friday night, they're not all that interested in seeing the Greyhounds back in London for a Game 5 on Thursday, either.

"If we can win this in four, that would be great -- it's our goal," Knights forward Jordan Foreman said. "We're not taking the Soo lightly because we know they're a hard-working club and they have a very good coach (in Craig Hartsburg). But we want to end this series as soon as possible."

London's talented forwards have dominated the scoreboard with a 12-4 edge in goals through the first two games, but the gritty Greyhounds showed on Friday that if they only last four games, they're going to make it feel like eight in the minds of the Knights.

"All this team knows is how to work," Hartsburg said. "That hasn't changed all year and we know what we have to do to stay in this series. We're going to fight for every puck and be physical and we have to play it smart. It's the only way. You can't take a bad penalty against that team (the Knights)."

London, which took much more of a physical pounding in the second game, has scored seven times with the man advantage already and the Knights realize their dominant power play will have to keep clicking or their chances of winning dramatically decrease in extended five-on-five play. Offensive chances are fewer and London's inexperienced defensive corps is prone to turning over the puck.

"It's playoffs and everybody's backchecking now," London captain Dylan Hunter said. "You don't see many three-on-two rushes any more like you did in the regular season. You have to make the most of your power-play opportunities."

After lengthy playoff runs the last two seasons, London has figured out one of the keys to success is to get past the first round quickly. London has won four consecutive first-round series and recorded two straight sweeps -- last year against Guelph and over the Windsor Spitfires in 2004.

There were a few reasons London general manager Mark Hunter tried to front-load the Sault series schedule with four games in five days. One of the biggest was to maximize the amount of rest time his team would have between series, but the plan didn't work -- the OHL ordered an off-day in the Sault tomorrow.

"A rest would be good -- not just for those of us who are logging a lot of ice time -- but you get to mentally relax for a bit because every game in the playoffs is at a different level and speed," London rookie defenceman Scott Aarssen said. "You want to play as few games as possible because you want to be able to stay as healthy as you can the whole way."

The way the Greyhounds pounded the Knights in Game 2 -- including a helmet-popping hit on flashy Sergei Kostitsyn -- London will be lucky to escape unscathed. Of course, following the Knights' Game 2 struggles in the third period, there is no longer complete certainty the team will make it through to the second round at all.

"More than rest, you want to be able to finish a team and not give them a sniff of anything," London goalie Adam Dennis said. "That's the most important thing -- don't let a team win a game and know it can beat you once. I always thought if you can't get up for a playoff game, then there's something wrong with you.

"In a long run, you're always finding a second or third wind and there's always gas left in the tank. We're young guys and there's no excuses for being tired. The playoffs are motivating and you should have all the energy you need to give your all every game."

A healthy fear for your opponents' abilities never hurts, either. For the first time this series, the Knights realize this Soo team can run with them in certain situations.

KNIGHTWATCH

Series: London leads the best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final 2-0.

Game 3: Tonight, 7 p.m. at Sault Memorial Gardens.

Game 4: Tuesday, 7 p.m. at Sault Memorial Gardens.


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