Knights face heavy sledding

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:43 AM ET

Steve Mason can't stay out of the London Knights lineup.

Jordan Foreman has been having trouble staying in it.

Mason, the big goalie who has played all 14 of London's games this season, isn't banking on a break soon with the Knights facing another stretch of three games in three days beginning tonight in Kitchener against the Rangers, winners of five straight.

"I'm not feeling tired yet and we have three big games this weekend and I want to be in there for all of them," said the 18-year-old Oakville native and Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick. "We haven't played the way we wanted to in our last five games, so we want to get back on track."

Though leading scorer Sam Gagner returns tonight, the Knights will be without 19-year-old fireplug Foreman, who was helped off the ice last Saturday in Barrie after being elbowed in the head by Colts defender Ryan Gottschalk.

"It caught me right in the jaw. I haven't watched it yet (on video) but it wasn't the cleanest hit ever," Foreman said. "I'm day-to-day (with a head injury) and there's an outside chance I can play on Sunday in Guelph, but it's out of my hands now. It's up to the doctors."

Foreman missed the first three games of the season with a broken bone in his foot and, in his first game back, was suspended for two more after leaping into the Sudbury bench to fight Nick Foligno. He refused to call his latest injury a concussion.

"I don't know what it is -- I just know I'm sick of sitting out," he said.

"We have a team this year which has the feeling back that we can win any game we play," Foreman said. "We've played some of the best teams in the league already and we feel we're right there with any of them."

The six-foot-three Mason is a large reason for that confidence. He's adjusted well to his first season as the go-to guy in goal and has rarely turned in a sub-par performance.

"I'm not hanging back in the net. I learned you have to challenge shooters in this league because shots will come from anywhere," Mason said. "We have a young (defence) corps but they're playing well and we're working together. It's always a work in progress to get guys to let me see the shots, but we're not a quarter through the season yet. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year, but it doesn't feel like it."

Though Mason lacks the seasoning of former teammate Adam Dennis, the Knights aren't surprised they're seeing the same signs of success they enjoyed last year.

"Steve's a lot like Adam in they're both competitors and want to get the most out of themselves," said goalie coach Dave Rook. "Steve's very mature for his age and has the inner drive where he knows when he's playing a team that requires him to raise his game a level."

The Knights haven't ruled out giving backup Stephane Cesar a start soon, but for now, the crease is Mason's domain.

Meanwhile, the London Nationals of the Western Ontario Hockey League traded 16-year-old forward Tucker Hunter, son of Knights head coach Dale Hunter and the OHL team's third-round pick last summer, to Petrolia last week for the rights to Tom Jobson.

"Tucker's goal is to play for the Knights next year," said Nationals GM John Simmons, "and to do that, he has to get more playing time, which he'll get (with Petrolia). The Knights want him to be a centre and we had been using him on the wing."

Hunter had no points in 12 games with the Nats. He's now playing with his cousin Garrett Hunter, son of Knights GM Mark Hunter and another Knights pick currently out of the Jets lineup with a wrist injury suffered on a check from behind.

"(The trade) was a mutual thing," Mark Hunter said. "We talked to the Nationals and thought this would be the best for both parties."

KNIGHTWATCH

Tonight: London at Kitchener, 7:30 p.m. at the Memorial Auditorium

Tomorrow: Guelph at London, 7 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre

Sunday: London at Guelph, 3 p.m. at the Guelph Sports and Entertainment Centre

Sea of red: The Knights are reminding fans to wear red to the JLC tomorrow in support of Canadian troops.


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