Knights get set for run to finish

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:11 AM ET

Last year, the London Knights entered the playoffs believing there wasn't an OHL team they couldn't beat.

This season, there's at least one club -- the Plymouth Whalers -- confident in matching their abilities in a seven-game series against London, especially following three straight lop-sided regular-season victories against the defending Western conference champions.

During the final stretch drive, the Knights are determined to make sure three more potential playoff partners -- Guelph, Kitchener and Owen Sound -- don't share that Plymouth feeling. London faces each of those three division rivals twice more, including tomorrow night against the Storm in Guelph.

"I think Plymouth is a hard-working team and they had taken us away from the game we want to play," London forward David Meckler said of the only team so far to finish with a winning regular-season record against the Knights. "If we play our game, we win. But too many times, we've ended up playing the way they wanted to and, obviously, it ended up hurting us.

"You can't let them dictate what's going to happen."

Meckler, a Yale University transfer and Highland Park, Ill., native, has noticed what most first-year OHL players do late in the regular season. The better teams in the league have formed more cohesive units and those relying on individual talent are doomed to meet an early end.

"The first few months, teams aren't really into their systems yet so there's a lot of running around out there," the 19-year-old Los Angeles Kings draft pick said. "But now, there's structure to the way teams defend you. It doesn't make it harder -- just different."

It certainly makes what London forward Pat Kane has been able to do since returning from the world junior tournament (19 goals and 34 points in 12 games) most impressive. He doesn't discriminate against good or bad and is scoring against everyone in every rink, a trait Meckler would do well to emulate.

"I've just been pulling myself out of a dry spell," said Meckler, who has 26 goals in 52 games but hasn't scored on home ice since Dec. 8. "You don't worry about not scoring in front of the home fans. That's not what it's about."

With the uncanny ability to draw penalties in the dying minutes of the third period, there has been recent talk -- especially after the 6-5 overtime home win over Sarnia last Friday -- that London gets late breaks from the officials. But Knights defenceman Trevor Solomon doesn't see it that way and said he never heard those kind of complaints when he played for the Guelph Storm, Sarnia Sting and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

"It's just the way the game is called now," he said. "I think every game is like that and you see (those late penalty calls) all the time. They happen everywhere, not just in London. Our team has a great powerplay and you notice it more because they usually score or get good chances whether it's late in the game or not."

Injured defenceman Scott Aarssen (arm) and forward Josh Beaulieu (ankle) skated with the team in practice yesterday -- a good sign the veteran pair is close to returning to the lineup. Both are listed as day-to-day.

London first-rounder Philip McRae has left the Knights to play for the U.S. at the Four Nations Cup in the Czech Republic. The 16-year-is expected to return to the Knights on Tuesday.

KNIGHTS VS. THE WEST

Plymouth: 1-3

Kitchener: 2-2

Sarnia: 5-1

Saginaw: 3-1

Guelph: 3-1

Sault Ste. Marie: 3-0

Owen Sound: 3-1

Windsor: 4-1

Erie: 3-0


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