All Knights hear Kadri's 'wakeup call'

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

When all things fail, sometimes you just have to use shock therapy.

That's what the coaching staff of the London Knights did yesterday.

Then the shocked troops took over, defeating the Sarnia Sting 3-0 in an Ontario Hockey League game yesterday at the John Labatt Centre.

The Knights have not been playing well, struggling through a stretch in which they've gone 4-5-1. But it was more than just the mediocre record. The Knights haven't played with the kind of jump expected of a team that was expected to challenge for the OHL title.

Friday's 6-3 loss to the Windsor Spitfires was a sort of spilling point.

When the Knights lineup was posted before yesterday's game, Nazem Kadri, a projected top 10 pick in this summer's NHL draft, was a healthy scratch.

"No comment," Knights coach Dale Hunter said when asked about the scratch.

Kadri said both Mark and Dale Hunter talked to him about simplifying his play.

"I've been turning the puck over a little too much. I just have to get back to simple hockey," he said.

"Obviously (sitting) is not my choice. I'm not happy about it. I would have liked to be on the ice with my teammates helping them out. But you know what, there's always a silver lining in things like this. I'll be ready to go for the game against Guelph (on Wednesday)."

Kadri called it a "wakeup call."

"I'll do things differently against Guelph," he said.

It wasn't just a message to Kadri. He paid the price of having to sit but any number of other Knights could have had the same fate bestowed upon them and deservedly so. The coaches wanted to deliver a message every player would hear.

The effort against the Sting indicated that the message, at least for a game, has been understood.

The Knights delivered a simple performance, returning to basics.

It was a game for the hard-boiled foot soldiers, guys like Leigh Salters, Dominic DeSando, Justin Taylor and Phil Varone.

Everyone else bought in as the Knights won a lot of the one-on-one battles, finishing their checks and not hanging goalie Trevor Cann out to dry. Cann earned the shutout, making 35 saves.

The Knights gave up few odd-man rushes, a rarity for them.

DeSando was one of several players who were involved in everything.

"We just decided to come out and play physical, win all the battles. We want to get the puck deep and win all the battles against the boards," DeSando said. "We wanted to go back to basics."

It seemed everyone played with a little more of an edge. Even John Tavares didn't mind getting involved in a little pushing and shoving.

Some of that wound up costing the Sting one of their best players, Matt Martin. A scrum in the first period resulted in the Sting's Mark Katic in the penalty box for 17 minutes, while Martin, who has 30 goals this season, was given a game misconduct, as was London's Tucker Hunter.

The Sting don't have the depth or talent to make up for that kind of loss. From that point on, their offence went into the tank. They were 0-for-7 on the power play.

The Knights scored all their goals in the second period.

Sting coach Dave MacQueen has done wonders with this team but they weren't very good yesterday. The Knights didn't let them generate very much of anything.

"We definitely were more intense (today,)" said Taylor, who really stoked the Knights intensity with a strong first period that ended with an encounter with Katic.

"(The coaching staff) likes hard-nosed players. They tell us to finish the check so that the other players have to worry about that and not the game."

Taylor said Kadri being scratched was the coaches "changing things up, trying to shake things up. It's a way of keeping players on the edge, on their toes come playoff time."

Now the Knights will see if it works in the long run.

Game glance

Knights 3, Sting 0

London goals: Garrett Hunter, John Carlson, John Tavares

Shutout: Trevor Cann, 34 saves

Next: On Wednesday, London plays the Storm at Guelph at 7 p.m., while with the Sting travel to Sault Ste. Marie to play the Greyhounds.


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