Knights charge into Erie

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

Nazem Kadri didn't get to play for Canada at Christmas after suffering a broken jaw.

But two games into the OHL postseason, he's laying waste to the best-laid plans for one of the world junior tournament's biggest names.

Undrafted Erie Otters goalie and Slovakian hero Jaroslav Janus knows what this first-round series means to his career. He opened the eyes of NHL scouts in Ottawa by beating out the United States.

Now the bird dogs want to see how he handles London. If he extends the Knights, he expands his chance of getting drafted or being offered a pro contract.

"I don't want to discuss my future now, but the playoffs are always very important," said the 19-year-old from Presov, Slovakia. "It's our first playoffs in (four years), my first in two years here, so it's big for us. We're playing a very good team in London. I am aware when John Tavares is out there. I know he's a goal scorer. It's not like playing in front of 17,000 like in Ottawa, but 10,000 is pretty close."

Janus allowed 11 goals -- six in the third period -- in the first two games at the John Labatt Centre. He often looked spectacular in Saturday's Game 2 and stopped 40 shots, but ended up yanked in the third period of an 8-1 loss when his club ran out of gas.

The Knights are looking for the sweep with wins Wednesday and Thursday in Erie. But they realize Janus, if he can rebound, still provides a major roadblock.

"We know we haven't seen the best of him yet," Kadri said. "He's a great goalie, obviously, from what he did at the world juniors and we have to keep getting pucks at him and driving the net."

Kadri has been the star of the series so far. He has the experience of an OHL title and Memorial Cup final last season in Kitchener.

A month after Knights coach Dale Hunter made him a healthy scratch against Sarnia, Kadri scored London's first three goals against Janus in Game 2 and finished with five points.

Kadri has four goals and seven points in two games and is playing the up-tempo style the coaching staff desires.

"Speed, speed, speed," Dale Hunter said. "We're going to be in good shape if we keep skating. They're not going to be able to keep up or they'll have to take penalties to stop us."

Janus has a couple of days to find some answers. Looking back, the Otters' best chance to steal one was a 5-2 loss in Game 1.

"I can play better," Janus said. "The first game, the third goal (Phil McRae's third-period game winner), Michael Del Zotto made a back pass and my defenceman tried to save the shot for me and put his legs together and it created a bit of a screen.

"But I should've stopped it. I have to make that save."

He has been outplayed by London's Trevor Cann, who stopped 26 shots in a make- or-break second period in Game 1.

Janus still has plenty of support in the Otters ranks. Assistant coach Peter Sidorkiewicz is a former NHL goalie.

"But it's not just Sid," Janus said. "Robbie (Ftorek) coached Marty Brodeur in New Jersey and he always tells me stories about how Brodeur handled different situations.

"He's trying to get me to be more of a standup goalie like Marty, not the butterfly. I have my own style. It's hard to describe. There's not really a name for it.

"It's just my own."

Some would call it lucky and good, especially the Americans who felt Janus' wrath first-hand at the world juniors.

"That win over the U.S. gave me a lot of attention, not just in Slovakia where it was really big, but in Canada, people were wishing me well and congratulating me, too," he said. "Slovakian hockey has been down for a while so I hope our (fourth-place) finish will lift up the junior ranks in the country, make it better. That's what I hope happens."

The Knights went with mohawk haircuts for the playoffs. So did Janus, who dyed his a pinkish hue.

He marches to his own beat. When London's Zac Rinaldo was being escorted off for hitting Erie star Ryan O'Reilly from behind on Friday, Janus glided up toward him to give a piece of his mind.

"I didn't say anything," Janus said with a laugh.

Rinaldo has been suspended indefinitely and is expected to appear at a hearing at the OHL office tomorrow.

He served eight games during the regular season for a similar check on Feb. 13 against Erie's Andrew Yogan, who has yet to return to the Otters lineup.

The Knights don't appreciate Erie GM Sherry Bassin calling Rinaldo a dirty player or angling for a lengthy suspension.

"Sherry should keep quiet," London GM Mark Hunter said Saturday. "Let the league take care of it. That's the way it should be handled."

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Knights vs. Otters

Series: London leads best-of-seven OHL Western Conference quarterfinal 2-0

Game 3: Wednesday, 7 p.m. in Erie

Game 4: Thursday, 7 p.m. in Erie

Goalie comparison

London: Trevor Cann -- three goals against, 73 saves, 1.50 goals against average, 0.961 save percentage, 2-0 record

Erie: Jaroslav Janus -- 11 goals against, 72 saves, 6.15 GAA, 0.867 save percentage, 0-2 record; Shane Owen -- one goal against, six saves


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