Preview: Firebirds Battle the Knights in London Friday
London, Ont. - The Firebirds will visit the London Knights for the first time this season Friday night. Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m. (ET) in front of an expected sold-out Budweiser Gardens (capacity 9,046).
London enters the contest sitting atop the Midwest Division and ranking second in the 10-team Western Conference with a record of 10-4-1-1. The Knights have won seven of their pastÂ 10 games, picked up points in their last eight of 10, and are currently on a five-game winning streak. The Firebirds have also won seven of their past 10 tilts. Flint's record stands at 12-6-0-0, placing them atop the West Division and in first place in the Western Conference. The Knights hold a home record of 7-2-1-0 so far this season, and the 'Birds are 4-4-0-0 in away games.
Of note, three members of the Firebirds' team were originally drafted by the London organization. Flint acquired three players from the Knights during the 2018-19 campaign, including Ryan Bangs, Vladislav Kolyachonok (Florida Panthers) and Emmet Pierce.
Friday marks the first of four meetings between the two clubs this season, and the first of two games in London. All-time, Flint holds a record of 1-13-1-1 in the series. The last time these teams played was March 8 in London. That night, the 'Birds picked up their first point in Budweiser Gardens, skating to a 3 - 2 overtime defeat on the road. Ethan Keppen (Vancouver Canucks) and Hunter Holmes lit the lamp for Flint in front of 9,036 fans. Adam Boqvist led the Knights with the game-winning goal in overtime plus an assist. The Firebirds have yet to win a game at "The Bud," going 0-7-1-0 in away contests in the series.
On special teams, the Knights rank secondÂ on the power play, scoring on 31.6% of their opportunities. Flint has scored on 13.9% of their chances with the man-advantage. London also has the league's second-best penalty kill, shutting the opposition down 86.4% of the time. The Firebirds are killing penalties at a 76.6% clip, which ranks 12th in the OHL.
Players to Watch:
Flint Firebirds (12-6-0-0, 2nd West Division):
Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars) and Evgeniy Oksentyuk continue to lead the way for Flint with 19 points each. Dellandrea currently has seven goals and a team-high 12 assists in 16 games-played. He is the Firebirds' all-time leader in assists (96) and points (165), but now needs only three more goals to tie for the all-team lead in goals-scored, which currently sits at 72 from Ryan Moore. Evgeniy Oksentyuk has eight goals and eleven helpers through 18 games in his first OHL season.
Defenseman Riley McCourt and forward Jake Durham are tied for third on the roster. McCourt's 16 points have him tied for eighth-most among all OHL defenseman, and his six goals have him tied for fifth in the same category. Jake Durham leads the team in goals-scored with nine. He ranks fourth all-time for the Firebirds' franchise with 121 total points. Nick Caamano, who now plays for the Dallas Stars, currently occupies the third spot with 122 total points.
Vladislav Kolyachonok (Florida Panthers) ranks second among Flint's blue-liners with 12 total points (4G, 8A) through 18 games. Dennis Busby (Arizona Coyotes) is tied for the tenth-best plus/minus rating among OHL rearguards at +10.
Between the pipes, Anthony Popovich has played in 12 games this season. His eight victories are tied for fifth-most in the OHL. He carries a save-percentage (SAV%) of .902 and a goals-against average (GAA) of 3.37. Luke Cavallin has four wins in seven appearances, and he carries a 3.93 GAA with a .891 SAV%.
NHL:Â The Firebirds have four players with NHL ties consisting of Dennis Busby (Arizona Coyotes), Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars), Ethan Keppen (Vancouver Canucks), and Vladislav Kolyachonok (Florida Panthers). In addition, Evan Vierling was named to the 2020 NHL Central Scouting 'Players to Watch' list.
London Knights (10-4-1-1, 1stÂ MidWest Division):
Connor McMichael (Washington Capitals) leads the Knights on the scoresheet and ranks in the top five in the OHL in several categories. His 41 points are most in the league, his 19 goals are second-most, he's tied for second with six power-play tallies, and he's tied for second in plus/minus along with teammate Alec Regula at a +15. Jonathan Gruden (Ottawa Senators) and Luke Evangelista are tied for second with 19 points each. Gruden has seven goals and 12 assists and Evangelista has six goals and 13 assists.
Ryan Merkley leads the London defense with 18 points (4G, 14A) in 14 games-played. Alec Regula (Chicago Blackhawks), who hails from West Bloomfield, Mich., ranks second among the blue-liners with seven goals and eight helpers through 14 contests. For total points, Merkley ranks sixth among OHL rearguards and Regula is tied for tenth. Regula's seven goals are tied for second-most. First-year defenseman Kirill Steklov has two assists to lead the freshmen class.
Between the pipes, first-year netminder Brett Brochu has played in nine contests and earned six victories. He carries a goals-against average (GAA) of 3.18 and a save-percentage (SAV%) of .880. Dylan Myskiw has wins in all four of his appearances this season, and sports a 1.83 GAA with a .936 SAV%.
NHL: London's roster features six players with NHL ties, including Connor McMichael (Washington Capitals), Liam Foudy (Columbus Blue Jackets), Jonathan Gruden (Ottawa Senators), Matvey Guskov (Minnesota Wild), Alec Regula (Chicago Blackhawks) and Hunter Skinner (New York Rangers). In addition, Plymouth, Mich. native Antonio Stranges, Luke Evangelista, Gerard Keane, Kirill Steklov, and Avery Winslow were all named to the 2020 NHL Central Scouting 'Players to Watch' list.
29 notable London Knights alumni to play in the NHL are David Bolland, John Carlson, Dino Ciccarelli, Michael Del Zotto, Max Domi, Sam Gagner, Bo Horvat, Michael Hutchinson, Nazem Kadri, Patrick Kane, Chris Kelly, Sergi Kostitsyn, Oli Maatta, Mitch Marner, Patrick Maroon, Steve Mason, Marc Methot, Vladislav Namestnikov, Rick Nash, Kyle Quincey, Brendan Shanahan, Steve Smith, John Tavares, Chris Tierney, Jarred Tinordi, Matthew Tkachuk, Austin Watson, Dennis Wideman and Nikita Zadorov. Their alumni Corey Perry played his 1,000th career regular-season NHL game on Wednesday. His first 988 games were with the Anaheim Ducks, before joining the Stars as a free agent over the summer.
FridayÂ evening's contest can be heardÂ live on the radio throughout Flint & Mid-Michigan on US 103.1 FM, online atÂ www.us103.comÂ or by downloading theÂ US 103 app here. Firebirds' broadcaster Dominic Hennig will call the play-by-play action on the Flint Firebirds Hockey Radio Network. Pregame coverage will begin 30 minutes prior to puck drop at 7 p.m.
Friday's game will also be televised live in London on channel 13 / 510 (HD) for Rogers TV cable subscribers. Additionally, the game will be televised live throughout the province of Ontario on the OHL Action Pak on channelÂ 469 for Rogers TV cable subscribers and channelÂ 469 for Cogeco TV cable subscribers. OHL fans with cable television in Ontario can add the OHL Action Pak to their television plan to catch the Firebirds in action, home or away all season long. Along withÂ Friday's game, 64 of the Firebirds' 68 games throughout the 2019-20 seasonÂ are also scheduled to be televised live across the province of OntarioÂ on the OHL Action Pak.
All Flint Firebirds home and away games throughout the 2019-20 season can be watched anywhere in the world online onÂ www.ohllive.comÂ or on theÂ OHL Live app.Â OHL Live is a league video streaming platform that delivers high quality live and on-demand coverage of all regular season and playoff games annually. The cost is $6.99 per game, $69.99 for Flint Firebirds away games only, $179.99 for all 68 home and away Firebirds games and $279.99 for all 1,360 OHL games throughout the 2019-20 season.
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