Knights fall — again

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:37 PM ET

SAGINAW, Mich. — Is this ever going to end?

The London Knights lost again, this time 4-1 to the Saginaw Spirit before 3,593 at TheDow Event Center.

That’s seven of eight now. This has officially turned from frustrating funk to a full-fledged free fall.

“The guys have to get together to get out of this,” London assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu said. “You hope someone steps up, but it has to be as a group. Sometimes when you’re losing, guys try to do too much by themselves and that makes it even worse. We didn’t generate much. We won a few more face-offs (than Friday against Windsor), but it’s not enough and when you don’t have the puck, you’re always defending.”

With each defeat, the Knights are sinking lower in the OHL standings. They’ve lost more games (11) than they’ve won (10) this year.

To make it worse, the injuries are piling up.

London defenceman Jarred Tinordi limped off the ice with five minutes left in the game after absorbing a check along the boards.

“It’s a knee,” Beaulieu said. “It looks sore right now but we’ll have to wait and see how it is.”

Forward Chris DeSousa needed treatment after blocking a shot with his forearm. He’s expected to be OK for Sunday.

London leading scorer Vladislav Namestnikov took a first-period puck above the lip and needed 13 stitches. The cut went straight through. His return was a bright spot on a night with not much else went right.

So how do they keep their spirits up through this stretch.

“It’s tough right now,” he said. “We just need a win. We’re trying to get out of it. That’s it.”

Namestnikov had a lot of chemistry with Daniel Erlich, but he’s out with a bad shoulder. No one else has been able to find a similar scoring rhythm.

Even Russian Super Series standout Igor Bobkov couldn’t steal one in net for the Knights.

Much more of this, the question won’t be about what seed London will enter the post-season with next spring. Pretty soon the query will be — is this team even good enough to make the playoffs?

London GM Mark Hunter didn’t see the latest disappointment in person. He was on his way to Barrie to watch the bargain-basement Colts against the last-place Erie Otters.

The Knights aren’t that far in front of the cellar dwellers anymore. London, a few weeks back, was neck-and-neck with surging Kitchener in the standings.

Now, they’re nine points behind the Rangers, who have won eight straight, and fading fast.

Defenceman Reid McNeill agreed this is a defining weekend for his club.

Well, they were bombed 7-3 by the Windsor Spitfires on Friday. They couldn’t bounce back against Saginaw.

And now, Doug Gilmour’s revamped Kingston Frontenacs roll into London for their lone visit Sunday afternoon at the John Labatt Centre.

London needs a win to avoid a lost weekend. They can start by staying out of the box.

““We’re fine defending 5-on-4 but when we go down two men, we struggle,” Beaulieu said. “We took bad penalties again at the wrong times.”

London had an early 5-on-3 and five power-play chances in the first period. But they were outscored 2-0 and outshot 16-14 in the frame.

Rookie defenceman Mike Moffat’s first OHL goal late in the second period was, sad to say, the Knights’ first really good scoring chance in a game devoid of them.

And the Spirit, who lost 4-3 in Sarnia on Friday, were ripe for the plucking. Atlanta draft pick Ivan Telegin and San Jose prospect Michael Sgarbossa were banged up and couldn’t answer the bell.

The Knights, though, didn’t put up enough of a fight.

And it isn’t getting any easier to get up off the mat.


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