Knights looking to remedy scoring drought

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

Justin Taylor was on the ice early with rookie Michael MacDonald yesterday.

"Practising one-timers," the London Knights captain said. "I asked someone to join me."

Everyone deals with the goal-scoring stress differently.

Sunday in Brampton, Nazem Kadri smashed his stick on the back of the net behind Jacob Riley, the 16-year-old Londoner who shut out the Knights in his second career start.

A trip to Kitchener is up next tonight.

The Rangers are first in the OHL's Midwest Division. London is on their tail. Ex-Knight Chris MacKinnon has 29 points. Rookie Ranger Jeremy Morin already has 18 goals.

Get out the measuring stick.

"It's that kind of game for both teams," Taylor said. "We haven't played each other yet. A chance to size each other up. They have some guys having career years on their team. Our record (13-5-0-1) isn't too bad but we've played a more defensive game this year.

"We're one of the lowest in goals against but we're also one of the lowest in goals for.

"That's the way its gone."

None of this was expected. The Knights, Taylor believes, have been snake-bit around the net. That's the reason for the extra target practice.

"We have six or seven guys capable of putting up 30-plus goals on this team but it's not happening," the 20-year-old said. "I haven't seen anything like it before. I've been through an 0-6 start (in 2007-08) but once we got through that, we started finding the net and scored a bunch o f goals.

"This year, you see a great chance and a guy hits the post. We've watched it again and again. Against Ottawa (on Saturday), I had the puck right there to tie the game 2-2 and I put it behind the net."

Taylor, on that play, looked to the rafters for an answer.

Only one thing to do -- keep shooting.

Kadri leads the team with 10 goals. Taylor and Jared Knight have seven apiece. Daniel Erlich, Phil McRae and Leigh Salters all have six.

"You look at a guy like Zac Rinaldo, who worked on his hands all summer, and he comes back and everyone sees how it's paid off (with four goals so far)," Taylor said, "and it looks like the rest of us didn't work at it.

"But we did."

All head coach Dale Hunter can do is keep shuffling the lines and special teams. They'll have different combos up front again tonight. Phil Varone, injured in Brampton, showed up at practice but didn't put on his gear.

The Knights have scored 15 goals on the power play this season. The Rangers have 33.

"I tell the young guys on the team here's your chance, if you score a few goals, you're all set," Taylor said. "You look at Michael MacDonald. He scores in four straight games and finds himself on a line with Nazem Kadri.

"Dale is watching. You score here, you get more minutes."

Dale and GM Mark Hunter are into that period where they must chart what direction they want to go after Christmas.

Windsor keeps winning. The Spitfires just got capable scorer Dale Mitchell back as an overager from the Toronto Marlies.

The Memorial Cup champs are a goalie away from soaring.

Still, the only thing between London and a top-two berth in the Western Conference is Kitchener. Guelph is good, too, but injury ravaged.

Knights-Rangers head-to-head might decide the Midwest.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca


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