Cornermen sounds right

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

"Look at this," big Leigh Salters said, pointing at the nameplates over the stalls in his corner of the London Knights dressing room.

Salters. (Dom) DeSando. (Zac) Rinaldo. Like three ducks all lined up in a row.

"It's ridiculous," DeSando said, shaking his head.

Last night, the next-door neighbours formed a lethal trio. A devastating, hard-hitting forward line crashing and banging young Kitchener Rangers bodies all over the John Labatt Centre ice.

Salters even went to the net and shoved home a puck as part of a five-goal second-period explosion to bury their Midwest Division rivals 7-1 before 9,090 and earn a fifth straight win.

"We practised all week as a line and it was fun to play with these two guys," the six-foot-four, 225-pound Salters said. "I have to go to the net. I'm not going to score my goals with toe drags and fancy plays.

"It's not up to us now (if they stick together). But we have to keep playing hard and doing good things out there if it's going to happen."

If they stay in business, they need a nickname.

How about the Cornermen, based on their dressing-room proximity and ability to wreak havoc in each end of the ice?

That might be it.

Rinaldo buzzed back with high energy after sitting eight games for nailing Erie forward Andrew Yogan with a check from behind on Feb. 13. He rode the stationary bike every day alongside London GM Mark Hunter to stay fit.

"I've been itchy," the hard-hitting 18-year-old said. "I felt bad about his (Yogan's) injury. The puck came around and I thought he was going to turn towards me. Instead, he turned away and coaches are telling their players to turn towards the boards against guys like me because they think I'm not going to ease up and draw a penalty.

"But I'm not going to change the way I play. I just might ease up in those situations where someone turns."

The Rangers will try to turn over a new leaf after being ejected from the playoffs for the first time since 2001. That year, the Knights wrestled eighth place away from Kitchener on the final day of the season.

The Knights' second goal last night that officially spelled their doom? Ex-Ranger Nazem Kadri scored it, assisted by Phil Varone and Steve Tarasuk.

That's like rubbing salt in the Kitchener aud faithful's wounds.

Here's more woe. John Tavares has a golden chance to become the OHL's career scoring leader on Kitchener ice tonight in the rematch.

Even though Rangers goalie Parker Van Buskirk robbed him a half-dozen times, he scored twice more, has 54 on the season and 211 in his career. Former Ottawa 67 Peter Lee finished with 213 goals 33 years ago.

Tavares has eight tallies in three games as a Knight against Kitchener. A hat trick is hardly out of the question.

"I'm just taking it game-to-game," he said. "I know we can't move in the standings, but we still have some team goals like 100 points and home ice in the final (if they win the Western Conference and finish second overall behind Windsor). No matter what (the goal record turns out), I'd hope to play in at least one of the games next week just for the feel of it. I don't have to play a lot, but I don't want to go into the playoffs having not been in a game for two weeks."

If Tavares thinks he'd go in cold, he just needs to turn to Matt Clarke. Recently moved back to forward, the Knights veteran scored on the first penalty shot attempt of his four-year career after a gorgeous fake slap shot.

"He (the Bus) stopped me high blocker earlier and I saw all the glove saves he made," Clarke said. "I had been trying variations of that move in practice and when I went to the bench, John Carlson told me I had to try it.

"It was (nerve-wracking) in front of all those people."

For the Rangers' playoff hopes, it's good Knight. Clarke doesn't feel bad.

"They're a rival," he said. "You always want to beat them."

RYAN.PYETTE@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos