Special teams Knights' focus

RYAN PYETTE, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

Dominic DeSando points to his belly button and two close-by spots on his abdomen.

The London Knights grinder had hernia surgery three weeks ago.

"They went in through here and here and here," said the 19-year-old Londoner, who hasn't suited up since notching an assist in a 5-4 overtime win against Erie on Nov. 20. "At first, I thought it was a groin injury. But my legs hurt all the time. My stomach puffed up pretty big."

He spent his recovery flat on his back.

"It was pretty boring," he said. "I played a lot of NHL on the XBox."

Did his favoured video game team -- the Chicago Blackhawks -- win the virtual Stanley Cup?

"No," he said, "but I can tell you I got a lot better (at the game)."

DeSando started skating again Sunday said he has to get back in shape. London head coach Dale Hunter describes him as day-to-day.

Could he bounce back quick enough for a Wrecking Crew reunion with Leigh Salters and Zac Rinaldo tonight when the Knights start the season's second half in Guelph?

It's possible.

As of yesterday, Rinaldo hadn't heard any bad disciplinary news from the league. He got the boot for a head check major penalty on Soo defenceman Michael Quesnele in London's last game a week-and-a-half ago.

The Knights won six of seven games before the holiday break. They now face a bottom feeder-filled schedule for most of the next nine games.

Even with Nazem Kadri and Phil McRae at world juniors, this would be the golden time to pass Kitchener for second seed in the Western Conference.

"We had a pretty good first half," Dale Hunter said. "Now, our special teams is a big focus. You look at the stats and our power play is a lot better at home (fifth in the OHL at the John Labatt Centre opposed to dead-last 20th on the road)."

Teams are more aggressive killing penalties at home.

Hunter has never been afraid to mix up lines and units until discovering symmetry. Nearly two weeks ago in Windsor, rookie Seth Griffith found himself starting the game on a line with Salters and Rinaldo.

"That was a thrill," said Griffith, a high-scoring 16-year-old forward who has 26 goals in 31 games with the junior B St. Marys Lincolns. "I didn't expect that."

The Knights charge admission to their games but there's as much fun in watching Griffith and old Chatham-Kent midget teammate Dane Fox pick up pucks at the end of Knights practice.

"I knew this would be a hard team to make," Fox said, "but it's great to get the practice here."

Fox missed a month-and-a-half with the Knights and Strathroy Rockets because of shoulder woes. But he's clearly feeling better now.

He owns the same bubbly personality as a young Rob Schremp.

The last two Knights on the ice yesterday, Fox blasted slappers at Griffith, who dutifully put the pucks in their milk crate.

Fox went to recruit more puck picker-uppers, calling loudly for Jake Worrad. "He said he already picked up the water bottles," Fox said.

Told to get off the ice, Fox and Griffith hurriedly fired the last pucks at the net. One of Fox's blasts shattered a big piece of glass behind the net. The arena attendants shook their heads.

Fox stuck his head through the hole he created and smiled.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca


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