Knights' offensive struggles continue

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

GUELPH -- When the OHL season started, most saw the London Knights as one or two players away from powerhouse status.

But the predicted problem areas were supposed to be in their own end of the ice -- not the attacking zone. Right now, the Knights are offensively challenged. All that dynamite firepower has a wet fuse.

London lost its second straight and third of five after Guelph captain Matt Kennedy scored the game-winner with six minutes left as the Storm edged the Knights 3-2 before 3,716 yesterday at the Sleeman Centre.

"You look at guys who score 30, 40, 50 goals in the NHL and they all have one thing in common," said forward Justin Taylor, who has two goals in two games -- half his team's production -- since returning from the Washington Capitals' camp. "They see the puck as theirs and no one's going to take it from them. When it's loose, they get it, control it and don't lose it. When it's around the net, they get it and bury it.

"You need that Hunter drive to the net and we don't have it right now."

London, likely to drop out of the Canadian Hockey League's top 10 poll this week, scored just twice on 33 shots against Detroit Red Wings prospect Thomas McCollum. They only scored twice in Friday's 4-2 loss to top-notch Windsor.

The perfect Spitfires have plenty of scoring and they'll get more if Josh Bailey returns from the Islanders. The Storm, still unbeaten under new head coach Jason Brooks, find a way to score just enough. The Knights? They're still looking for go-to guys.

"Everyone wants to make the pretty pass," Taylor said. "We all want to play on the perimeter and stand on the outside and nobody wants to go to the net and crash."

That's how the 19-year-old Londoner scored his goal. At the other end, Knights goalie Jason Guy put together one of his finest games and nearly stole his team a point before Kennedy's screened shot found the back of the net.

The 20-year-old Whitby native stoned Luke Pither -- who went to Guelph in a three-way trade that sent Guy to Kingston two years ago -- point-blank in the crease and also when the Storm forward hopped out of the penalty box on a clear-cut breakaway.

"Jason Guy's been the best player for the London Knights so far this year," Taylor said, "and the forwards have to help him out. You figure you have to score more than two goals to win."

"When a goalie plays that well, you hope that you're able to get a victory," Knights assistant coach Pat Curcio added. "We had our chances. We have a lot of playmakers on this team and that's what they do best is pass the puck. We don't have enough guys who finish."

Will Akim Aliu returning from Chicago training camp or defenceman John Carlson, who had two assists in his first two preseason games with Washington, solve that problem?

Or do the Knights have to bring in others willing to drive the net?

"It's early yet and we put this team together thinking that we had the players who have the ability to score goals," Curcio said. "We still think they can. But it's a mindset. They have to want to score bad enough."

Guelph, playing its third game in three days, was ripe to be plucked. The Storm won in Plymouth Saturday night and the players didn't get back home to bed until after 2 a.m. yesterday.

The Knights didn't play Saturday. Yet in the third period, Guelph outshot London 17-8.

"We've been skating really hard trying to get ready for these three-in-threes," Kennedy said. "We have a few of them right away in the season. We got a good ride on the bike and we were ready to go.

"We knew the way Jason (Guy) was playing, we weren't going to beat him on just shots. We tried to get the puck to the net, screen him, do whatever we could to get in front of him.

"I don't know how mine went in. I just shot and saw Tim (Priamo) and Luke (Pither) put their arms in the air and that was enough for me."

Guelph's reigning leading scorer Brandon Buck, who had been at Nashville Predators training camp, returned in time for Saturday's game in Plymouth and played against the Knights.

It doesn't look like London has to worry about Drew Doughty beating them any more, but the Knights still gave up a late one to the Storm, who knocked them out of the playoffs last year.

"We're moving forward as if Drew's not going to be back," Guelph head coach and assistant GM Jason Brooks said. "We had him for three good years and if the best thing for him is to play in Los Angeles, then we're happy for him and there's nothing you can do about it.

"We don't have to tell the guys that. They have to create their own identity."

As usual, it'll be hard work and timely goals.

The Knights, however, are still looking for what makes them tick.

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Storm 3, Knights 2

Guelph goals: Taylor Beck, Luke Pither, Matt Kennedy

London goals: Jared Knight, Justin Taylor

Next: London faces the Saginaw Spirit Friday at the John Labatt Centre at 7:30 p.m.


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