London Knights (21-8-0-1) vs. Kitchener Rangers (21-7-1-2)
Tonight, 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre. Tickets are still available. Call 519-681-0800 or www.londonknights.com
THE MATCHUP: This is the third time in the last month the Knights and Rangers play with first place on the line in the Midwest Division. Kitchener won the first meeting 6-4 on Nov. 13 but the Knights bounced back with a convincing 5-2 decision in Round 2 on Nov. 24, both in Kitchener.
WHO TO WATCH: Knights -- F Nazem Kadri. This could be his final OHL game until 2010 if he cracks the Canadian world junior roster. The Toronto Maple Leafs first-rounder has scored six times in his last four games. Most have been timely and spectacular. Rangers -- F Jeremy Morin. The 20-goal rookie from Auburn, N.Y., makes his first visit to the JLC since playing for the United States in the gold-medal game of the 2008 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Those weren't happy memories for an American crew that also included Rangers goalie Brandon Maxwell. They were steamrolled 3-0 by Ontario.
SPIRIT SUSPENSIONS: Kadri might've been a mouthpiece in Saginaw last Saturday but the Spirit blew a fuse and racked up 22 games in suspensions during that 5-2 Knights win. Garret Ross, who cross-checked Kadri off a second-period faceoff, got a five-game suspension. So did pesky Tyler Murovich. Woodstock's Cody Sol left the bench and was nailed for 10 games. Jordan Szwarz was handed two games. London F Michael MacDonald, who got two games for second fight during the same stoppage, serves his last game tonight.
KNIGHT RIDER: London F Jared Knight has ice in his veins. The 17-year-old sophomore is riding a six-game personal goal scoring streak. He potted goals in three straight games, sat out a week after being diagnosed with diabetes, then roared back with tallies in each of last weekend's games. Clearly, the health setback isn't going to stop him. He crashed the opposing net with just as much gusto as before, if not a little bit more.
QUOTABLE: London penalty killer Garett Hunter said there's a reason the Knights show so much exuberance in blocking shots during games. "It's in the back of our minds that if we don't do it, then the coaches are going to fire pucks at us the following week in practice," he said, "and that's never any fun."
BENCH CHECK: In their last meeting, one-time Knight Chris MacKinnon surprised everyone when he bench-checked London's rough-and-tumble Zac Rinaldo. MacKinnon is known more for his point production than physical play. Will there be retribution? Rinaldo said he laughed the play off. Regardless, when he gets a chance to hit, he usually takes it.
AFTER THE BUZZER: The Knights stick around to face the struggling Guelph Storm tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the JLC. The Rangers head to Windsor on Sunday.