Kadri can't do it all himself

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

Nazem Kadri has tried to do too much in his first five games with the London Knights.

He's lugging the puck a lot. He's logging loads of ice time. He's a potential first-round NHL pick, so that makes him No. 1 on opposing teams' hit list.

"Maybe at times when I've been frustrated, I've tried to carry the puck a little too much and I know that's not right," he said yesterday while sitting out practice to rest some bumps and bruises suffered in a loss at Guelph on Sunday. "I've watched (the film). I've got to head-man the puck and get the offence moving. I know we've got to bear down on our chances around the net."

Help, however, is on the way.

Big, mobile defenceman John Carlson is back from the Washington Capitals' training camp. St. Louis second-rounder Phil McRae, expected to be one of London's top six forwards this year, is ready to go after a bout of mono.

Both are slated to make their season debut tonight when the Knights face the Saginaw Spirit at 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre.

McRae's return should take some of the focus and attention off Kadri. The 18-year-old McRae was drafted by the Blues at Ottawa in June and attended the United States world junior team evaluation camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. this summer.

But he fell ill during the Knights' training camp, missed his chance to go to St. Louis and didn't get doctors' clearance to play until his spleen returned to normal size this week.

"I think, because it was such a busy summer, I got run down a little bit," McRae said. "It was disappointing not to go to NHL camp. I was looking forward to it a lot. But I'm here and I've been waiting to feel well enough to play again and it looks like I'm going to get that chance."

The Knights are going to ease him into the lineup. It's likely he won't go to Erie tomorrow because his recovery time isn't all the way there for back-to-back contests.

"When I skated hard (in practice), I'd have to go home and have a pretty long nap -- two or three hours -- because it just knocked me out," McRae said. "It's getting better but it's still not 100 per cent. I got the OK to play, though. I want to get off to a good start and help this team score some goals."

The Knights struggled in that department last weekend, netting only two each against top-notch Windsor and hard-working Guelph. Fairly or not, the finger gets pointed at Kadri, the former Kitchener Ranger who is adjusting to life without his old linemates -- burly Florida Panthers prospect Mike Duco and speedy Phoenix first-rounder Mikkel Boedker.

"It's early, you play with different guys and of course, there's not a lot of chemistry built up there yet," the 17-year-old Londoner said. "But we know it'll happen. We know we have a good team. We want to do a little better on the power play than we have and we're going to try to get a few wins and get this turned around."

Kadri showed visible frustration on Sunday when a teammate dumped the puck in on the rush. He is a puck-possession player and likes to carry it into the offensive zone.

"I like to play with passion," he said. "I know that wasn't right. There are times we have to dump it in and put it where we can get it back. I recognize that. If you try to carry it too much, that's when you get caught."

QUICK HITS

Russian Sergei Korostin switched his sweater number from 42 to the one he wore growing up (21) . . . Forward Dominic DeSando, who had two goals and three points in three games, is still nursing a shoulder bruise . . . The Knights have put together a small but fast forward unit of Kale Kerbashian, Phil Varone and Chris MacKinnon. All three are looking to break out of early scoring funks.

KNIGHTWATCH

Tonight: vs. Saginaw, 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre

Tomorrow: at Erie, 7:30 p.m.


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