Kadri dazzles ex-mates

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

He heard all the trash talk from his old pals.

He fired back at every turn.

"Mouthpieces," Nazem Kadri said with his usual grin. "But I gave it right back to them."

And then some. With the game on the line, the London Knights star forward left everyone speechless.

Playing his old Kitchener mates for the first time, Kadri scored a dazzling third-period goal on a dipsy-doodle solo effort with six minutes left to seal a 3-1 London victory before 8,888 yesterday at the John Labatt Centre.

The former Kitchener first-rounder also had two assists to run his points streak to 10 games. He factored in on every goal as the Knights won their sixth in seven games and snapped the resurgent Rangers' six-game win streak.

"It's fun to play against your old team," Kadri said.

No kidding.

It's taken time for Kadri to accept being the final piece of last season's trade that sent Steve Mason to Kitchener.

At his introductory press conference with the Knights this summer, he said it felt great to be back home but a little weird to be playing for his arch-rival.

He had nothing but good memories with the Rangers. He was treated in a first-class way.

Kadri got to play in the Memorial Cup final last spring and his performance set him up for NHL draft first-round buzz.

Those kind of ties die hard.

"They have a saying there -- 'Once a Ranger, always a Ranger' and I believe that," Kadri said. "I have a lot of friends there. I had a great time. But I'm playing for the London Knights now and when you're on the ice, you have no friends on the other side."

But before the game, he was excited for the Rangers bus to arrive so he could get a head-start on the on-ice insults. He and his teammates weren't so thrilled that The Bus -- Kitchener goalie Parker Van Buskirk -- showed up, stopping 43 London shots and keeping his team in it right until Kadri's back-breaker.

"He (Van Buskirk) played one hell of a game," Kadri said. "I know they're struggling right now with a lot of key guys out."

Especially on the defensive side, the Rangers are missing Dan Kelly (busted ankle), Robert Bortuzzo (shoulder) and goalie Josh Unice (sore knee).

They won't be the same team when Kadri makes his return to the Kitchener Auditorium. "I think it's Jan. 27," he said.

Of course it is.

The 20-year-old Van Buskirk, who started in Sarnia and is now with his fourth OHL team, is taking advantage of his chance to play. This was his first loss in regulation.

"I should've had the third one," he said. "I just lost sight of it for a moment. If I have that, we have the chance to tie it up and keep this thing going."

Kadri, who potted his eighth of the season, wasn't about to be denied. The Knights have struggled with a killer instinct on offence this year but turned to their leader to salt it away.

"He's our go-to guy and that's the time of the game you're looking for him to step up like that," London assistant Pat Curcio said. "We outchanced them 28-7 and you're going back to the Memorial Cup year to see those numbers. When you do that, you expect to win."

The Knights were disciplined, allowing Kitchener only one power play.

Defenceman John Carlson spent 32 quality minutes on the ice and there was a directive to get more pucks at the net.

"When you play with a talent like Nazem, it makes it easier -- he opens up space," said London forward Justin Taylor, who scored the second-period winner. "We are trying to get a lot of quality shots. If you keep getting the chances, they're going to go in.

"We're a young group. It's going to take some time."

Big forward Akim Aliu skated hard before the game, but isn't yet back from a groin injury. Curcio said it's optimistic he could make his OHL debut Friday in Sudbury against his former team.

GAME GLANCE Knights 3, Rangers 1

London goals: Christian Thomas, Justin Taylor, Nazem Kadri

Kitchener goal: Kevin Hudes

Next: London heads on a northern swing to face Sudbury on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Sault Ste. Marie on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.


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