The last time Adam Dennis was banged up, the goalie overcame his physical woes to lead the London Knights to a Memorial Cup championship.
But the OHL's top puckstopper isn't sure if he'll be healthy enough to get back in the London net tonight to help the Knights try to climb out of an 0-2 hole against the Peterborough Petes' magical overtime machine.
Dennis, who is listed as day-to-day with a "lower-body injury," was hurt during the first overtime of Friday's OHL final opener. Rookie Steve Mason, 17, took emergency starting duty Sunday in Peterborough for the Knights' second straight extra-session defeat.
The youngster says he's ready to go if Dennis can't answer the call for Game 3 at the John Labatt Centre tonight.
"The worst injury I had in my career was probably my groin last year," Dennis said yesterday after undergoing vigorous treatment in hopes of donning the pads tonight.
"Not a lot of people knew about it and we kept it quiet, but I played in the playoffs and Memorial Cup with it, then spent the rest of the summer rehabbing it."
The Petes prepared to face Dennis in Game 2, but they had an inkling Mason might be a late replacement.
"We had heard he (Dennis) might have hurt himself in Game 1, but he was circled as the starting goalie on the lineup card," Peterborough coach Dick Todd said Sunday.
"We watched him during the pregame warmup and he took a minimum number of shots, then went off and that's the first time we knew that (Mason) would be playing."
The Knights say they have faith in the six-foot-four Mason, who stopped 33 shots Sunday and beat Peterborough during the regular season.
"It isn't a letdown losing (Dennis) because we know (Mason) played well against them before," London forward David Bolland said.
"The rest of us have to step up and support him. I can't buy a goal right now -- I didn't have a decent shot (in Game 2) -- but it's not (Petes goalie David) Shantz. It's the guys in front of him who are limiting our chances."
London, which went without a power play during the second half of Game 2, was still upset Petes captain Jamie Tardif knocked London defenceman David Halasz into Mason to set up Fredrik Naslund's game- winning goal on Sunday.
"I want to know if pushing the defenceman into the goalie is legal because that's a good play," London head coach Dale Hunter said. "If it is, we'll get our guys to do it. If that doesn't happen, the play goes the other way and the game continues. Is that interference or not? I don't know the answer."
Dennis bashed the officiating, which he thinks has been suspect since the regular season ended. He blamed the two-referee system for a lack of unison in the postseason.
"The refereeing has been inconsistent all playoffs," he said. "They'll call something one time and not call it another time. They'll call a little thing and let the big things go."
London forward Kris Belan, who hammered Game 1 hero Patrick Kaleta and jawed at him while he was on the ice, feels his team has to play with a little bit more of contact against the Petes.
"They're totally different than Guelph," Belan said. "They're bigger and always finishing their checks and you always have to look around for a second or two because you know they're coming. I think we have to be more physical to be successful. We can throw the body as well as anyone."
It's been a body-checking series so far, but the Knights know they must create more scoring opportunities.
"We have to keep our legs moving and draw as many penalties as we can," Belan said.
Peterborough leads best-of-seven OHL final 2-0
Game 3: Tonight, 7 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre
Game 4: Thursday, 7 p.m. at Peterborough