Knights blue-line burned

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

Goaltender Steve Mason is the guy the London Knights can least afford to lose if they hope to make a run at another OHL championship.

But defenceman Scott Aarssen is a close second.

The Knights will find out just how valuable he is. Aarssen will be out of the lineup for at least four weeks with a dislocated shoulder. It could be longer. He's having an MRI today to see if there's any muscle damage. If there is, he could be out longer.

Assistant coach Dave Gagner, who handles the defence, was succinct yesterday in saying how important Aarssen is to the Knights.

"He only plays about 30 minutes a night," Gagner said.

This is a team that could withstand the loss of a forward. But Aarssen and Ryan Martinelli are the guys the Knights rely on to provide experience. Now the increased burden will fall to Martinelli and Todd Perry.

That is, unless GM Mark Hunter feels four to six weeks is a long time to operate without Aarssen in the lineup. Hunter is known for his ability to go out and find what this team needs to continue being a success.

"We just had a meeting (with the coaches) and talked about things," Hunter said. "We discussed some ideas, but we haven't found out how bad it is yet. It's at least four weeks."

Will he make a deal?

"I don't have any answers," he said. "We're looking at (the situation). We're always trying to improve our team, but now that takes on a little more urgency."

Dealing from this position is not ideal. No matter how many friends you count among your hockey brethren, they all recognize someone in a vulnerable position when they see him.

Of course they'll be willing to help, but it's all about supply and demand. They have the supply and will demand a good price to give some of that up. If you are going to make a trade, you want to make one that helps in the long term, not just as a stop-gap measure.

There aren't a lot of defencemen out there. There are rumblings, though, the Guelph Storm may be willing to deal top-quality blue-liner Ryan Parent. The Knights and Storm have a history of deals, especially since Dave Barr took over as Storm general manager.

Parent will come at a hefty price, though.

Aarssen, meanwhile, was at practice yesterday. It was team picture day and autograph day. The Knights had 51 sticks, 18 sweaters, two hats and a lot of pictures to sign.

Aarssen had his arm in a sling to protect the left shoulder he injured Friday when he was cross-checked by Oshawa's Cal Clutterbuck. His shoulder popped out and had to be popped back in.

"It was the worst pain I've ever experienced," Aarssen said. "I've had slight shoulder separations that kept me out a week, maybe 10 days, and last year I had a (thigh bruise) that kept me out a week or so, but this is the most serious injury I've had."

In 19 games, Aarssen has 12 assists and is a plus-16, third-best in the OHL.

He doesn't remember much of the incident.

"The puck was coming into my skates and I was looking down when I got hit," Aarssen said. "I don't remember much after that. I guess I was in the worst position, because if I had been further away from the boards I would have just hit ice and if I had been close to the boards, I probably would have hurt my back a little, but not my shoulder."

The Knights have two homes games this week. The Kitchener Rangers are at the John Labatt Centre Thursday with the Erie Otters coming to town Friday. The Knights have a Sunday afternoon game against St. Mike's in Toronto.

They will still be missing forward Jordan Foreman, out with a sprained ankle, and maybe Matt Clarke, who injured a wrist against the Generals.

If the Knights don't get someone before this three-game run, they'll get a much clearer picture of how much help they will need after it.


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