Knights hope to exact wins, not revenge

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

The London Knights are already in hot water for trying to exact revenge on the Kitchener Rangers last week.

They could really scald their playoff hopes if they try to punish the last-place Erie Otters this weekend and avenge Patrick Lee's late hit on high-scoring London forward Sam Gagner from Feb. 11 at Erie.

Lee, who just finished serving an eight-game suspension for the incident, will be a most unpopular member of the Otters lineup against the Knights when the two rivals meet in a season-ending home-and-home series on Friday at the John Labatt Centre and Saturday at Tullio Arena. Gagner ended up being carried off the ice, taken to hospital and missed his team's next three games.

"We're not worried about revenge or the Erie Otters," London forward Justin Taylor said. "We have a championship to chase for. We're going to try to play hockey."

London's David Jarram and Josh Beaulieu have already been suspended indefinitely by the OHL for their actions in the Kitchener game. They are facing abuse of officials charges and the sitdown won't be a short one if the league finds those complaints ring true.

"Some bad feelings (between Erie and London) are there, but we're trying to win games," London head coach Dale Hunter said. "It's important to keep guys healthy for the playoffs but you want to win as much as you can, especially if you still have a chance for first place."

With the start of first-round playoff series looming next Friday against Owen Sound, Sarnia or Guelph, the Knights would look like suckers if they risk extra suspensions and sacrifice more grit and physical presence to try to pay back a team that sits nearly 70 points behind them in the standings.

"For us, it's just another hockey game," Erie head coach Peter Sidorkiewicz said. "You don't expect anything. If they want retribution, I don't know what will happen. We've been out of it (the playoff hunt) for a long time but we have guys who are playing for jobs next year. We'll play our lineup -- who else am I going to play?

"I don't have a Pat Kane or Sam Gagner that I can sit out."

In a perfect world, London could protect its stars by sitting out Kane, Gagner, Sergei Kostitsyn and goalie Steve Mason, who was run over in the crease by Erie forward Zach Torquato the last time the teams met. But the Knights likely won't have that luxury because they're involved in a down-to-the-wire race for the league title and top seed in the Western Conference with the Plymouth Whalers.

"If Plymouth wins both their games, they're first (because the Whalers won the season series 3-1 against the Knights) but the problem is we won't know that until Saturday night after we've played and they've played against Kitchener," London head coach Dale Hunter said. "It's one of those situations as a coach where you wish you could've won that game you didn't back in November or picked up a couple points along the way and you wouldn't be in this situation.

"But you can't plan for that. It has made for some exciting hockey in the final few weeks and everyone's interested to see who finishes on top right to the final weekend."

Hunter could wait until after Friday's game to decide which players will make the long bus trip to Erie on Saturday. In past years, London's top guns would play in the final home game and sit out the last road trip.

"We have some guys with bumps and bruises and we have some young players here, so you want to get a look at them," Hunter said. "Not just for next year, but we have some holes on our fourth line and this weekend could determine who is there in the playoffs."

There are some team and individual incentives on the line against Erie. London has a shot at hitting 50 wins for the third time in four years (which would be a Canadian Hockey League record). Kane, who is just three goals from 60, is battling for the OHL points crown and Mason needs one more victory to reach 45 and pass ex-teammate Adam Dennis for the league record.

"I'd like to see us play at least most of our good players because we're still going for first overall," Taylor said. "Even if they just get less ice time than normal, we still have a good chance to win these games and finish the season strong."


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