LONDON KNIGHTS (33-8-0-1) VS. GUELPH STORM (24-15-2-3)
WHEN: Tonight, 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre. There are still some tickets available.
THE MATCHUP: This is the fourth meeting of the season between the Storm and the Knights. The Storm hold a 2-1 edge, winning 3-2 at the John Labatt Centre and 3-2 in Guelph. The Knights' only win so far was at the JLC when Trevor Cann shut out the Storm 2-0.
DIFFERENT LOOK: The key member of the Storm was goaltender Thomas McCollum. He stopped 43 shots in the first win, a shootout victory, and made 33 in the second win. But McCollum is gone, traded to the Brampton Battalion at the deadline. The Storm got two 17-year-olds, forward Josh Salla and goaltender Brandon Foote, and two second-round picks back. It will also be the first time the Knights Leigh Salters plays against the team that traded him. The Storm were busy at the trade table, also moving forward Luke Pither to Belleville and getting Yves Bastien from Peterborough.
WHO TO WATCH: The Storm will play Foote in net. He'll be the No. 1 guy until Jake Fischer gets back from a bout with mononucleosis. Their top forwards are Peter Holland and Matt Kennedy, two 42-point guys, and Taylor Beck, who played in the CHL's top prospects game Wednesday. Knights defenceman John Carlson has been a terror offensively. He loves to jump into the play and is dangerous every time he's on the ice. He's third among OHL rookie scorers and is fourth in scoring among defencemen.
TOUGH PLAYER: Bastien can only see out of one eye. Storm coach Jason Brooks had him on several elite teams and needed a character guy who played hard.
BETTER THAN EXPECTED: The Storm sit in third place overall in the Western Conference, a lofty spot not many people predicted the team would be sitting in. First-year coach Brooks has done a terrific job. All the changes at the trade deadline, though, proved hard on the club. They lost 3-2 to Kitchener and 6-1 to Sarnia. "That wasn't really our team," Brooks said. "With everything that went on at the deadline, it was emotionally very difficult."
KNIGHTS FALLOUT: The Storm were actually considered buyers, not sellers, before the trade deadline. They made a bid to get Oshawa Generals defenceman Michael Del Zotto, but when the Knights swung the deal for John Tavares and Del Zotto, the Storm recognized they didn't have a chance to win the Western Conference and became sellers. "I still think we'll be competitive with the team we have and we'll be better in the future," Brooks said.
POLL: The London Knights are ranked No. 5 on the Canadian Hockey League top 10 list, up from No. 6. The Calgary Hitmen are No. 1, followed by the Windsor Spitfires.
A BIG PLUS: Knights defenceman Matt Clarke is tied for sixth in the OHL's plus-minus category with a 26. He's tied with Belleville's P.K. Subban.
MORE SCORING: The Storm and Knights have almost identical defensive records, with the Storm giving up 2.73 goals a game and the Knights 2.93. The big difference is goal scoring. Before last night's game, the Storm scored 139 goals while the Knights have 181.
ALUMNI WATCH: The exploits of former Knights goaltender Steve Mason have been well documented but a guy who has flown under the radar is Dennis Wideman. Selected 241st in the 2002 draft by Buffalo, Wideman went on to play for St. Louis and was traded to Boston for Brad Boyes two years ago. No one gave Wideman much of a shot to play in the NHL but he's been one of the best Bruins blue-liners this year. He has eight goals and 21 assists in 42 games and is a plus-25.
COACHING CHANGE: It was just a matter of time before changes were made with the Plymouth Whalers. The Knights are there Monday afternoon. Whalers president and general manager Mike Vellucci returns behind the bench, replacing Greg Stefan, who resigned. Stefan will take a job as special assignment coach for the Carolina Hurricanes.