London Knights (17-7-0-1) vs. Sarnia Sting (10-15-1-0)
Tonight, 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre
THE MATCHUP: The Sting make their first regular season visit to the JLC this year. The clubs met Oct. 1 in Sarnia and London held on for a 4-3 victory. In Sarnia's frantic comeback attempt, ex-Knight Kale Kerbashian beat Michael Houser in the final minute, but the puck caught the goal post and stayed out.
WHO TO WATCH: Knights F Stephen Sanza. The 19-year-old's speed was evident in his OHL debut against Kitchener on Tuesday. Now he gets his chance to do what he's dreamed about since he was a little kid, play for the Knights in front of the big crowd on home ice. "It's going to take a week or so for him to get used to the league and the players," Knights assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu said of the former London National; Sting F Kerbashian. Offence has been really hard to come by lately for Sarnia (yet they they still have a more productive power play than the Knights). The former London speedster leads the Sting in scoring.
STING BEEF UP D: Sting 19-year-old rearguard Brent Sullivan is eligible to return after serving a two-game suspension for the second fight during the same stoppage against Kingston's Andrew Clouthier on Nov. 15. In the meantime, the Sting picked up Londoner Anthony Donati from Plymouth for a conditional 10th-round pick in 2012. Donati, who appeared in 10 Whalers games this year, has been playing for the junior B Sarnia Legionnaires.
KADRI ON FIRE: Be it Toronto GM Brian Burke's London visit, the looming Canadian world junior camp or playing on a line with Phil McRae, Knights star Nazem Kadri has started lighting up the scoreboard. After a slow return to the OHL, No. 91 is riding a six-game point streak (four goals, 11 points) and that's not including his involvement in the Canada-Russia Subway Super Series. He scored a beauty short-handed effort against the Russians on Monday in Windsor, then buried the back-breaker in the Knights win at Kitchener on Tuesday.
FIRST-PLACE SPACE: It's been a long time since a team other than London or Kitchener has occupied first place in the Midwest Division standings this late in a season. They're both there again duking it out for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference (good luck catching Memorial Cup champ Windsor for top spot). For the Knights, was it all about the climb back to first in the Midwest? Or now that they're there, will they boot the Rangers back down below? Kadri thinks their remaining four head-to-head tilts with the Blueshirts (three at the JLC) will decide it.
SICK BAY: The Knights are expected to get Phil Varone back from a banged-up shoulder this weekend. It doesn't look like Dominic DeSando will be as fortunate. He is struggling with a hernia-type injury and might be out until after Christmas. Jared Knight will sit out both games after being diagnosed with diabetes.
ALUMNI UPDATE: Whatever happened to Akim Aliu? Well, the former Knight is playing in the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs, Chicago's farm team. He has five goals (on just 14 shots) and six points in 18 games. Second on the Hogs in scoring? That would be former Knights captain Danny Bois (five goals, 11 points, a plus-six ratings and, of course, team-high 48 penalty minutes).
AFTER THE BUZZER: The Knights visit Erie tomorrow and the Sting visit the Sault to play the Greyhounds tomorrow.