Friday Knight

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

LONDON KNIGHTS (37-14-1-2) VS. ERIE OTTERS (28-24-2-0)

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

THE MATCHUP: London has lost a season-high four in a row and a usually potent offence has fallen silent in six games since a 9-0 win in Kitchener on Jan. 27. Conversely, their Midwest Division rival Otters, poised to make the playoffs after a rebuilding struggle, have won seven of their last 10.

WHO TO WATCH: London -- F Jason Wilson, an 18-year-old rookie from Richmond Hill, only has one goal in his last 10 games (Saturday against Barrie) but has 11 on the season and his conditioning suggests he will finish the year strong. Erie -- Sarnia native Brandon Biggers is having a career year in his overage season after the Otters plucked him from GM Sherry Bassin's old club -- the Soo Greyhounds. Biggers has 17 goals and 46 points.

SPECIAL TEAMS: The Knights have the second-best power play in the OHL (23 per cent). The Otters have the best penalty kill in the league (89.1 per cent). Let the best unit win.

TAVARES UPDATE: London F John Tavares practised yesterday and said his shoulder feels better and is hopeful he'll play, but is still listed as day-to-day. The Knights could use him, especially on the power play.

NIFTY 50: There's 14 games to go and London needs to win 13 of them to achieve another 50-victory season. But one more win tonight or a Kitchener loss will lock down a playoff berth. The Knights can also match the victory total of last year's club, which finished 38-24-4-2 for 84 points and second place in the Midwest (and fourth in the Western Conference). It is the first time since 2002-03 that the Knights hadn't won at least 40 games.

SMART GUYS: If regulation and overtime decides nothing, perhaps the Knights and Otters should play a round of Jeopardy! rather than going to the shootout. The Knights have at their disposal defenceman Matt Clarke, a Western engineering student, and Tucker Hunter, who just finished up his high school studies at Saunders where he was a 90 per cent student. Erie's pick? Coach Robbie Ftorek could go with Brett Cook. The 17-year-old defenceman from Washago gets straight A's and was recently nominated by his high school teachers for the monthly Kiwanis good citizenship award. I'll take Solid Students for $400, Alex.

JUMPIN' JANUS: The Knights haven't faced Erie goaltender Jaroslav Janus since he became a Slovakian world junior hero in Ottawa last month. When the Knights last visited Pennsylvania on Jan. 7, the tournament had just ended so the 19-year-old gave way to Shane Owen, who London blitzed in a 6-3 win. Janus's personal stats aren't as impressive as London goalie Trevor Cann, but he does have 22 of the Otters' 28 wins and has some big-game experience should they book a playoff berth.

ALUMNI UPDATE: Remember Ryan MacDonald? The talented Chesley goalie who was part of the Knights' 2004-05 Memorial Cup run for half a season before being sent to Guelph so that London could get Adam Dennis, is playing in Germany. He is the main man for the Lusatian Foxes and one of the top goaltenders in the German second league. The Foxes' leading scorer is former OHLer Preston Mizzi, who played part of his final junior season with the Sarnia Sting.

RODNEY UP AGAIN: Former Knights defenceman Bryan Rodney filled in again last night for injured Carolina Hurricane Dennis Seidenberg and according to GM Jim Rutherford, he will have to play himself off next year's team. Head coach Paul Maurice has been particularly complimentary of Rodney's power-play work.

AFTER THE BUZZER: London heads to Kitchener on Sunday to face the Rangers at 7 p.m. It's a quick turnaround on Monday with a Family Day game in Guelph at 2 p.m. The Otters return home tomorrow to play the Kingston Frontenacs.


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