Tavares itching to return to ice

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

John Tavares has never before been injury prone.

Twin shoulder woes from big hits have sidelined him three games since becoming a London Knight a month ago.

He's determined he won't sit out any more.

"For three-and-a-half years I didn't miss any games due to injury, and now I've missed a couple," the OHL's leading scorer said. "I'm hoping to get back in (on Friday against Erie). It's much better. The prognosis is good. The x-rays came back negative."

That's positive for the Knights, who haven't had a lot to smile about lately. The team has lost five of its last six.

In his last on-ice appearance, last Friday, he was whacked by Windsor star Taylor Hall and forced to leave in the first period of a 4-3 loss to the Spits.

"It was a good hit," Tavares said. "I couldn't really see much because (Windsor goalie Andrew) Engelage is a big guy. I went around the net, the puck went in my skates and I looked down to try to get it back up to my stick.

"I did look up again and saw him (Hall) coming but just didn't have the chance to move out of the way."

Tavares said the break has given him a chance to rest. "I'll be ready to go (for the rest of the season)."

Tavares, 18, stayed home while the Knights completed their lost weekend with an overtime defeat at Barrie on Saturday and a loss in Owen Sound on Sunday.

"We just have to find a way to get over the hump," he said. "Some games, we're getting around 50 shots and it feels like we should have 70. We've had leads. This is a good team. Maybe there are times where we try to stickhandle it into the net. That doesn't always work.

"We have to try for a few ugly goals. I watched Vancouver (Canucks) play on Saturday night and they had been really struggling to score for a while but they seem to be coming out of it by making the simple plays."

The Knights have the second-best offence in the OHL behind Windsor, but only have 14 goals in their last six games.

"It's about good habits," Tavares said. "Before the Windsor game, the coaches really stressed getting pucks at the net and that's what we've been trying to do."

The players know the Hunters won't rest until they find a solution to this skid. Trades are no longer an option.

Short of scrapping his puck-possession style of play, London head coach Dale Hunter will have to continue his line juggling until he finds players who fit together.

Tavares said a constant quest for linemates on the left-handed dominated roster isn't a negative.

"It's really not that different (from the same set of wingers)," he said. "When things are going well, Dale tries to keep the lines together, but things haven't been going well so he has to change them up.

"I've been with (Nazem Kadri) a lot. We like playing together. We have some good chemistry and we've been on the same line at home when we can match up. But on the road, the other team usually has their top lines and two best defencemen out against us and it's more difficult (because of last change)."

On adding Tavares and defenceman Michael Del Zotto, the Knights raised expectations of another 50-win season. Now, they'll have to win 13 of their final 14 games to make it happen.

The goaltending has been inconsistent. The defencemen add offence but they don't always jump into the rush at the right times.

The goal-scoring drought, though, is new.

"You watch those guys in the NHL and teams might only give up six great scoring chances. You put in half of those and that's how you end up with a 3-2 (win)," Knights forward Justin Taylor said.

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KNIGHTS DIRTY HALF-DOZEN

London's six games since a 9-0 win at Kitchener on Jan. 27:

Feb. 8: 5-2 loss at Owen Sound

Feb. 7: 3-2 overtime loss at Barrie

Feb. 6: 4-3 home loss to Windsor

Feb. 1: 4-3 loss at Ottawa

Jan. 31: 3-2 win at Belleville

Jan. 30: 3-2 loss at Kingston


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