Lahey's knee injury hurts 67's cause

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

The underdog 67's will be without their fifth-leading scorer for their Eastern Conference quarter-final series against the Belleville Bulls.

Right winger Matt Lahey, who had 21 goals and 25 assists in 61 games, has been ruled out of at least the opening-round matchup due to a knee injury.

"The doctor says the best thing for his knee is rest, so we're doing it," said 67's coach Brian Kilrea.

"He's a goal scorer, he's good around the net and we're going to be looking for anyone to put the puck past (Bulls goalie) Kevin Lalande. Certainly we're going to miss him."

Prognosticators will say that by missing the series, Lahey will have a lot of time to rest his knee. The 67's finished the OHL regular season 19 points behind Belleville and, because they are led by the likes of 17-year-old Logan Couture and 18-year-old Jamie McGinn, are expected to be better equipped for a longer run next spring.

But George Burnett will not be fooled into that kind of thinking.

"You're making a big mistake if you underestimate any Brian Kilrea team," the Bulls coach/GM said yesterday, citing the 67's rise from a sixth-place finish to a surprising playoffs tear in 2005. "They had some inconsistencies, but they found a way in the last weeks to win the conference and go on to the Memorial Cup.

"We have to be prepared for Ottawa's best and we have to be at our best."

The Bulls are anxiously awaiting the return of Orleans defenceman Shawn Lalonde, who is on the final steps along the road to recovery from a fractured windpipe.

RELYING ON EXPERIENCE

Burnett will be relying on the experience up front of players such as Tyler Donati and Tyler Doig, the defensive leadership of Calgary Flames first-round pick Matt Pelech and solid goaltending from Lalande, who missed last season's playoffs with an injury.

"This is Kevin's time," said Burnett.

Being downplayed in the Bulls dressing room, of course, is the 7-1 record Belleville owned against Ottawa in the regular season.

"I think Logan Couture only played in half of those games and he is such a significant piece of their team," said Burnett. "We only played them three times in the second half of the season. Certain changes have been made to the face of their team ... they've added guys like (Jason) Bailey and (Julien) Demers to become bigger and stronger, and they're a good cycling team

"Momentum will be key. I would expect a tight series. The regular season means very little at this point."


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