With oft-injured Frank Rediker on board last year, one of the London Knights over-age positions carried question marks throughout the 2005-06 season.
The defenceman's absences due to knee and shoulder woes forced London to push forward Trevor Kell, now with Sarnia, back to the blue-line as an emergency replacement. Fortunately for the Knights, Kell became one of the team's more reliable defenders.
London GM Mark Hunter didn't want a Rediker-like repeat this year, which is evident from his decision to keep 20-year-old Londoner Ryan Martinelli and acquire over-ager Todd Perry from Barrie at the start of the season.
Perry recently breathed a sigh of relief when Hunter dealt extra forward Kris Belan to Oshawa, which leaves the Knights roster with the maximum of three players born in 1986.
"It's one of those things where you don't want to see a guy like Belan go but you feel pretty good because there's no one looking over your shoulder," Perry said. "We have three (over-agers) left with me, Ryan and Robbie (Drummond) and barring trades, hopefully it will stay like that the rest of the year."
Unlike Martinelli, who often goes up against the opposition's top line with Scott Aarssen, Perry has played with a myriad of defence partners while trying to get used to the different feel of the Western Conference teams and rinks. Remember, Perry played 116 games the past two seasons with Barrie so he is still getting used to life on the other side of the league.
"It's a different brand of hockey," Perry said. "I've always thought the Western teams played a more in-your-face style and almost all of the teams come hard on the forecheck. As a defenceman, you have to make quicker decisions. I have played with different guys so far this year, but I'm not worried about it. It would be nice to have a regular partner to build up some chemistry but that will come."
Most of Perry's built-up OHL chemistry was stacked up on the other side of the ice Saturday night with the Colts.
"It's always something you look forward to because you have a lot of friends on the team," Perry said before the contest. "You hope to have a good game."
It was no surprise Perry played one of his stronger games of the season in last Sunday's 7-5 win at Brampton -- a building he is familiar with because the Battalion are the Colts' divisional rivals.
"I do think it helps knowing the rinks and the bounces the puck will take off the boards," said the native of Ingleside near Cornwall. "There's subtle differences in the Eastern and some of the Western rinks. Windsor's pretty small and Kitchener has the big, crazy dashers where the puck slides around and doesn't always come down to the ice."
It works both ways, of course. Matt Pelech, who London traded away in the off-season, led the OHL in minor penalties heading into the weekend. The big blue-liner, who previously spent his entire junior career playing for Western Conference teams, is clearly still getting used to the Eastern side of play.