Knights adopt hair-raising tenor

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

Nazem Kadri rubbed his scalp as teammates walked past with colourful interpretations of the playoff mohawk haircut.

He's getting the razor soon.

"Don't worry, I'm getting one," the 18-year-old London Knights forward said. "I'm just waiting for my hair to get a little longer. I had it cut short (in a buzz), but I'm lucky. Mine grows back fast."

But will Kadri, the former Kitchener standout, dye the 'do to match the House of Green as he skates toward what he hopes is back-to-back trips to the Memorial Cup?

"I don't know," he said with a grin. "That's going to be a game-time decision."

Knights sniper John Tavares plans on rocking the 'hawk, too. The OHL scoring champ has already seen a few standouts in the room.

Daniel Erlich, for instance, went with green and gold. Zac Rinaldo, the OHL's penalty minutes king, adjusted his usual faux-hawk to add more warrior-like attitude.

"Zac's is good," Tavares said, "and Dominic DeSando has a real good one, too. For me, it might be the last time to do something fun like this."

It's not just hair. There are threads, too. On Friday, London captain Scott Aarssen unveiled the T-shirts the team will wear during the playoff run. They all say "En Route," a French phrase meaning "on the way" as the Memorial Cup is in Rimouski in May.

It's just another part of the old Muskateers "one for all and all for one" theme the Knights have tried to build since the January trade deadline.

Plus, if they all look alike it could help camouflage Tavares. The Erie Otters, will likely try to turn the 58-goal scorer into a passer rather than let him hang near the slot during their first-round series.

"Some teams put a guy on me or try to do some different things," Tavares said, "and in the past, I've had to become more of a playmaker in the playoffs and I feel like I've been able to add that element to my game. But I'll still find a way get my chances. I just have to stay disciplined."

The Otters know what they're up against in their first playoff appearance in four years. They have to beat the Knights at least once at the JLC in the series and haven't done that since Mike Rice scored twice in a 2-1 win on Dec. 27, 2002 -- 20 visits ago.

Rice has since attended Western and graduated from the Mustangs hockey team.

"They're the No. 10 ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League, they have the best player in the world and they're going to have their big crowd behind them," said Otters GM Sherry Bassin. "We're under no illusions here. They're the heavy favourite, we know that. But I can tell you one thing we're not going to do and that's forfeit.

"This team is going to show up and play. They're going to be prepared because we have as good a coaching staff as any out there (led by Robbie Ftorek).

"We know the Knights will be prepared, too. They always are. What I want to see at the end of this is how some of our younger guys handle this first playoff opportunity.

"We don't want this to be a blip. We want to build on this."

The Knights have big plans this spring. They lost to the Guelph Storm in five games last year in the first round.

After that, there was one thought process: Never again.

"Last summer was way too long," said Knights assistant coach Pat Curcio. "You don't want to fall in a hole. You want to build momentum right away. The team has been doing some good things lately. We have to carry that forward."

Can they carry it long enough for the mohawks to grow in and require another shearing?

"We have that kind of team to go a long way this year," Kadri said.

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KNIGHTS

Knights vs. Otters

Best-of-seven OHL Western Conference quarterfinal

Game 1: Friday, 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre

Game 2: Saturday, 7 p.m. at the JLC

House of Green: Knights kicked off playoffs with autograph session and press conference yesterday at Masonville Place. New House of Green T-shirts will be available at first playoff game, along with 2009 rally towel to support Special Olympics.

Tickets: Call the box office at 519-681-0800, on-line at www.londonknights.com or in person at the Knights armoury (10 a.m.-6 p.m.)


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