Friday Knight

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:35 AM ET

LONDON KNIGHTS (37-12-0-2) vs. WINDSOR SPITFIRES (45-6-0-1)

WHEN: Tonight, 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre. (Sportsnet)

THE MATCHUP: It's a preview of what many anticipate will be the Western Conference final in May as the two best teams in the OHL face each other for the first time since their trade deadline makeovers last month. The CHL's top-ranked Spitfires have won the three previous meetings and there's three more to go before the end of the regular season.

WHO TO WATCH: London -- F Phil Varone. He missed practice yesterday with illness but was an effective player on the Eastern road swing. The 18-year-old from Vaughan picked up five points in three games and supplies much-needed secondary scoring for a team whose opposition focuses on shutting down John Tavares; Windsor -- F Scott Timmins. There are only two players in the OHL's top 10 scoring who have been traded this year. One is Tavares. The other is Timmins, the veteran who proved he's much more capable than just shutting down top scorers. The 19-year-old from Hamilton was Kitchener's most consistent scorer this season and hasn't stopped producing after landing in Windsor.

TAVARES NEARS 200: Tavares has 198 regular season goals in four years. He's played 10 games as a Knight with 15 goals and 24 points. Four of those 10 games he's scored more than once, including a hat trick and a four-goal effort. He's surrounded by enough talent that he shouldn't go into any kind of prolonged slump. He has 17 games left and needs 18 goals to top former Ottawa 67's forward Peter Lee's OHL record of 215 career goals.

STILL SUSPENDED: Forward Leigh Salters will sit out tonight while serving the fifth and final game of his league-issued suspension for trying to goad Sudbury's Akim Aliu into a fight when the Wolves visited London two weeks ago.

ALL-STARS, PART 2?: This should indicate the quality of tonight's contest: 10 players who suited up for the Western Conference in the all-star game Wednesday will play tonight. In Tuesday's skills competition, London's Phil McRae teamed up with Erie's Ryan O'Reilly and Owen Sound's Joey Hishon to help the West win the puck control relay and Knight Nazem Kadri beat Brampton's Matt Duchene in the individual puck control contest. Windsor's Taylor Hall won fastest skater (14.178-second lap), while London's John Carlson uncorked the hardest shot (96 miles per hour).

CLASSY: The OHL has created the Mickey Renaud Captain's Trophy to honour the late Windsor captain. It will go annually to the captain who best exemplifies the character and commitment Renaud displayed during his career, as selected by a special media panel. The Knights' current captain is injured over-age defenceman Scott Aarssen, while D Harry Young is Windsor's nominee.

UPDATE: London F Dominic DeSando had two goals and three points in his first three games this season. Then he needed shoulder surgery and hasn't played since. But he's been skating and working out and could make his return against Windsor when the Knights play the Spitfires again at the JLC two weeks tonight.

BIG IN THE CAGE: Windsor G Andrew Engelage isn't necessarily the most appreciated soul. But the six-foot-five, 206-pound all-star has won 36 games and lost just five in his final season. It's been a struggle to emerge as the clear No. 1 starter for the Spits, but if he's given enough games down the stretch, he could knock down former Knight Steve Mason's single-season record of 45 wins of two years ago. The only issue is whether he'll get the time. The Spitfires brought in Josh Unice from Kitchener at the trade deadline and he needs to see his shots, too.

AFTER THE BUZZER: The Knights head to Barrie tomorrow to face the Colts at 7:30 p.m. before playing in Owen Sound on Sunday at 2 p.m. Windsor, in the midst of three games in three nights, entertain the Niagara IceDogs tomorrow.


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