Knights power play blows fuse

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

Scroll down the list and you'll take a pretty good tour of Ontario and two northern U.S. states before you come to the name you expect to see near the top.

You have to travel through Barrie, Saginaw, Sarnia, Kitchener, Windsor, Plymouth, Sault Ste. Marie, Mississauga, Peterborough, Belleville, Erie, Sudbury, Oshawa, Kingston and Guelph before you get to the London Knights.

It's been a while since the Knights languished 16th overall in the Ontario Hockey League in the power-play efficiency category.

In fact, over the years the Knights have never been considered out of a game because any team that took a couple of penalties against them ran the risk of letting them right back in.

But this year, especially over the last four games, the power play as short-circuited. The Knights are 0-22 with the extra man in those four games. The last time they scored on a power play was Oct. 2, when they were 3-for-7 in Erie.

The good thing is the Knights are still winning despite the problem. The bad news is they have to get the power play straightened out or a lot of teams are going to take liberties with them, knowing the Knights can't connect with the man advantage.

"It's a huge concern," Knights assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu said. "I had the guys out (yesterday morning) at 11 o'clock, the kids who don't go to school. We went on the ice for a half-hour and we're going to do it again (today) and before practice.

"We're not sticking to systems. We're trying to make home-run plays. We're making low percentage passes, all the things you aren't supposed to be doing, we're doing it."

Beaulieu normally handles the penalty-killing unit (it's No. 2 in the league), with head coach Dale Hunter handling the power play.

"Coach is a little impatient with them right now, so we thought for now, I would take them out," Beaulieu said. "We changed personnel. We're going with two units instead of one. We've changed somewhat the style we're going to use. We have to get more pucks at the net. When we shoot, it's the wrong time to shoot. We're very impatient. There's not a whole lot of good things about our power play right now."

Beaulieu says the key member of the power play is the quarterback, Nazem Kadri. The other key spot is along the half-boards where Phil Varone normally sets up.

Varone is excited about the changes to the power play.

"What Jocko has put in place for us will make it successful," Varone said. "It's a great setup and something I've never seen before from a coach. It's something different that with the guys we have, I think it's going to work."

Changes include Kadri running things from the top with Phil McRae taking a more centre role and Varone working from the side.

Beaulieu says that "Naz is taking a lot of weight on his shoulders right now and he's trying to do it himself. I told him, don't think that way, He has four other guys out there to help him."

Varone says there are a number of issues with the power play.

"We're not shooting the puck, we're trying to make an extra pass every once in a while," he said. "And . . . I don't think we're working as hard as we should. Guys are taking it for granted that we don't have to get loose pucks. But our forwards are phenomenal and we know what it takes. It will get better."

The lack of success on the power play reflects on the low scoring totals on this year. Steve Tarasuk is the club's leading scorer with eight points, but he doesn't crack the league's top 60 in scoring.

Even with the changes, Beaulieu says the power play comes down to a simple concept.

"You have to execute and we're just not executing," Beaulieu said. "We're working on moving the puck quick. Get it on your stick, get it off your stick so the box doesn't form. That will open up seams for us."

The Knights have two home games this weekend (tickets available for both) against Barrie tomorrow and Kingston Sunday afternoon.

They hope by the end of the weekend, they'll have worked their way back up the list.

KNIGHTS-67'S DEAL

The London Knights have brought another local player home, getting right-winger Pieter Schinkelshoek from Ottawa for Sudbury's sixth pick in the 2010 OHL draft. Schinkelshoek, 17, was the 67's second-round selection in the 2008 draft from the London Jr. Knights AAA organization. He is six foot, 195 pounds and a tough forward with good hands. He's expected in London for today's practice.


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