Scoring woes concern Knights

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

These are your London Knights.

OK, barring a couple of trades and a pickup or two, this is the team that will look to get back to the Ontario Hockey League's Western Conference championship series.

With the totally expected announcement that Michael Del Zotto will remain in the Big Apple, the Knights have made what seems like their annual contribution to the National Hockey League underage player fund and can now focus on getting better.

No doubt Mark Hunter will go out and get a blue-liner or two and maybe find another forward, but for the most part this is it.

So how good is it?

There will be another litmus test tomorrow when the ridiculous OHL schedule pits the Knights against the Windsor Spitfires for the third time already this year. This one is in Windsor.

The last few years, the Knights/Spitfires have used their games as a measuring stick to figure out just how much more needs to be done.

Last year, the Knights were handled easily by the Spitfires. That forced the Knights to make the major deal, getting Del Zotto and John Tavares, in order to compete with the Spits.

If the Knights goaltending situation had worked out, who knows which team would have made the Memorial Cup.

Last year's Knights team had no problem scoring goals -- defensive work needed help.

This year, the Knights have one of the better defensive records in the league, but they are having trouble scoring goals.

Part of that is because they aren't getting a lot of points from the defence. With John Carlson and Del Zotto last year, there was plenty of offence from the back. There were games when it looked as if five forwards were on the attack.

This year, Steven Tarasuk is providing some offence but that's about it.

While it would be nice to have mega-scoring from the blue-line, this situation isn't all bad.

While it's still early, the Knights will not have to worry about their goaltending. Michael Hutchinson and Michael Houser have the ability to win games. They've given up few bad goals, which were the nemesis of the Knights in the playoffs last year.

No matter how many goals you score, it's always the bad ones that are harder to get back.

You can fix your team at just about any position, but the most difficult is in net.

The Knights may not be as physically strong or offensively talented on the blue-line as they were last year, but that causes them to take fewer chances, which in turn means giving up fewer scoring opportunities to the other guys.

Michael D'Orazio, who came in a trade from Owen Sound, has been terrific. Once he starts finding the net on the power play, he'll put some points on the board.

And Hunter will go out and find a serviceable defenceman to help out. Come the trade deadline, don't count against Hunter finding a No. 1 or 2 guy for the playoff run.

Which brings us to the forwards.

The general feeling is the Knights will start scoring goals. They don't have players with the natural scoring ability they've had previously, but it appears every forward has chosen the last month to hit a dry spell.

The Knights are getting the kind of chances that should wind up in the net. Nazem Kadri has gone through an emotional rollercoaster and is still trying to find his rhythm. Justin Taylor hasn't started to score. The Knights coaching staff is working on a new power-play system. If the lack of goal-scoring continues another month, then it's time to worry.

The Spitfires had pretty much a perfect season last year. This year, despite being prohibitive preseason favourites, they have their own issues to deal with.

Goalie Troy Passingham is playing well. Will the Spitfires let their future ride on this free-agent netminder?

Last year whatever issues the Spitfires had were well hidden. This year they've already had two players leave the team, requesting trades.

The latest is Jesse Blacker, a defenceman drafted in the second round by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The key to the Spitfires is defenceman Ryan Ellis, but he has struggled since coming back from NHL camp. He's missed a number of games recently with an injured wrist and will be a game-time decision against the Knights.

No team is immune to the ups and downs of junior hockey. No team is without warts.

It's wait and see for everyone.

morris.dallacosta@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos