Pouliot returns to London for Knights alumni team

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:43 AM ET

No wonder Marc-Antoine Pouliot thinks his return to London this week feels "a little bit weird."

The Edmonton Oilers forward will be suiting up for the loosely-designated London Knights alumni team against Austrian pro squad Linz in the opening game of the Euro Can Cup Tuesday night at the John Labatt Centre.

Pouliot's most vibrant memory of London is a painful one after skating to a 4-0 defeat as a member of the Rimouski Oceanic in the 2005 Memorial Cup final against the host Knights.

Ex-Knights forward Rob Schremp, an Oilers pal the past few years, said Pouliot will be sure to hear all about the 'good ol' days" after he arrives from Quebec City this weekend.

"For sure, we all thought it would've been a better game if we had more time to recover," Pouliot said. "We (Rimouski) had to play them the day after the semifinal and we didn't have enough in the tank. Still, it was one of the greatest weeks of my life."

In the aftermath of that game, the Canadian Hockey League has since added a day off between the Cup semifinal and final. It's referred to as the Doris Labonte rule in Quebec after Pouliot's former Oceanic coach.

That game was one of the few in which Pouliot and junior linemates Sidney Crosby and Dany Roussin were shut down. Rimouski had a fearsome first unit to go along with offensive-minded defenders Patrick Coulombe and Mario Scalzo, Jr.

"We don't talk now as much as we did five years ago, of course," the 24-year-old Pouliot said, "but you try to keep track. I know that Sid got the (Stanley) Cup and brought it to Halifax on his birthday, which was great for him.

"Coulombe and I, we spent the summer working out at the University of Laval with the (Vanier Cup champion) football team. Their trainer is our trainer and it was a great situation."

Pouliot should feel right at home in the Knights dressing room with Schremp and Sam Gagner this week. Two years ago, the Oilers dashed the Knights' Memorial Cup hopes by keeping Sam Gagner in the NHL at age 18 but they've allowed their players to take part in this tournament.

"I was invited to play when the team went to Europe last year and I had a blast," Pouliot said, "so that's why I said yes this time. They brought Sammy on, which was great and Rob and I got to be very good friends.

"Rob played very well when he got called up by the Oilers last year but, after a couple of games, got sent down and the coach (Craig MacTavish) never gave him a second chance. I believe he deserves another shot at the Show."

Gagner thinks this tourney will give him the edge heading into his first Oilers training camp under new coach Pat Quinn.

"I got to meet him briefly and I've heard a lot of great things about him," Gagner said. "This is a big year for us and the Euro Can Cup is going to help get it started on the right foot."

Dale Hunter, who is helping coach the Knights team, thinks the hockey is going to be extremely fast-paced.

"The European teams are very good at the game they play," he said. "They're used to the big ice and they pressure the puck with two guys and are very disciplined. It's going to be fun to watch."

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

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EURO CAN CUP

At the John Labatt Centre

Game 1: London Knights alumni vs. Linz (Austria) Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $27 for each game; four-game pack $98 and eight-game pack $192. Call 519-681-0800 or at www.johnlabattcentre.com


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