Rinaldo gives Knight bit more grit

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

Zac Rinaldo can be as blunt as one of his body checks.

The London Knights' battering ram is now the OHL's penalty minutes leader. He jumped ahead of Windsor's Lane MacDermid after a lightning-quick scrap Tuesday against Kitchener's Micky Sartoretto, who took instant exception to a helmet-popping hit by Rinaldo on Rangers youngster Alex Aleardi behind the net.

The PIMs -- 148 to date and 36 so far in 10 games with the Knights -- are a badge of honour. (The OHL does not include 10-minute misconducts and game misconducts in the penalty totals.)

"I want to stay ahead of (MacDermid)," he said. "How many (fighting) majors does he have? Twelve? Well, I have (14) . . . "

Most players shy away from talking about their physical play. The intense Rinaldo's attitude?

Hit it head on.

"I've always liked to hit and it's always been a part of my game," he said. "Sure, the refs are watching you when you play more physical than the game allows and sometimes, you get penalties for perfectly clean hits.

"It happens."

He's not going to apologize.

"You take a penalty for a big hit and you come back from the box and the guys on the bench support you because you're trying to make things happen," he said.

No one taught him how to deliver a devastating hit. He has a unique sense on how to line someone up and learned from watching his NHL heroes.

"I always liked the way Eric Lindros played and have tried to model my game after him," he said.

The Big E had his best seasons in Philadelphia. Rinaldo is, no surprise, a Flyers prospect -- a sixth-round pick in 2008 and perfectly suited for the club's rough-and-tumble approach.

But there's a big difference. Lindros was one of the biggest players in hockey.

Rinaldo is five-foot-11, 180 pounds. He's a lot smaller than the guy who wore No. 77 for the Knights last year -- big leading scorer Pat Maroon -- but he throws his weight around a lot more than his fellow Philly brother did here.

The Knights parted with speedy Kale Kerbashian at the trade deadline to bring in Rinaldo from Mississauga to add more grit. He has been as advertised.

"I'm not hitting more than I did in Mississauga," he said, "but the fans here, they appreciate a good hit here more than they do there."

Rinaldo, 18, wasn't happy with his role on the Majors. He has been vocal that he wasn't used in the special-teams situations he thinks he can play.

The Knights like his energy. He has also chipped in with a goal and eight points and is a responsible plus-eight.

"It's been a good time here," he said. "There's a lot of talent here, a lot of good players on this team and we have a lot we want to accomplish."

Rinaldo's acquisition was overshadowed largely because it happened right before the John Tavares-to-London blockbuster.

KNIGHTWATCH

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

Saturday: at Belleville, 7:15 p.m.

Sunday: at Ottawa, 2 p.m.


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