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Knights vs Majors Recap & wow, Sam Gagner!

February 5, 2012

London Knights 5 vs Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors 2

As stated in a previous post, the Knights have a knack for rebounding from a loss, which meant that they had an even better chance of winning their Saturday night game against the Mississauga St. Mike’s Majors. In what appears to be the theme of their season, London followed up a tough loss to the Niagara with a strong performance against Mississauga, finishing with a 5-2 win on the strength of 2 goals from Austin Watson, 3 pts from 1st star Vladislav Namestnikov and a 52-17 shots-on-goal advantage.

While  many of their ‘name’ players hit the scoresheet in this game, and Michael Houser was solid in goal as usual, it was the return of Vladislav Namestnikov that is really heartening for this team. He’s been very quiet since returning to the ice after an injury that prevented him from landing a spot on the Russian junior national team and hopefully this means he’s back to form because the Knights will need him to balance their lines.

Sam Gagner – On FIRE!

I love to follow former Knights’ activities and progress in their careers as I noted in my previous post about the various league All-Star games.  One player that shot into the NHL spotlight and then kind of faded away was Sam Gagner of the Edmonton Oilers. The 6th overall pick from the London Knights posted a 49 pt season that seemed to prove that the Oilers were right to keep the then 18 year-old instead of returning him for another year of junior.

What followed were 3 seasons of setbacks and injuries and the one time 1st line centre of the future, found himself further down the depth chart as the additions of highly touted 1st overall picks, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as well as 1st rounder Jordan Eberle, contributed to Gagner seeing reduced ice-time and a loss of confidence.  Just coming back from yet another injury, he seemed again tentative and not the same player we saw in his season. Trade rumours that had continually swirled around the talented young forward were again being heard.

On February 3, 2012, it seemed like the magic was back with a vengeance.  Everything Gagner touched was gold and he was named 1st, 2nd and 3rd star for his team record-tying 8 pt. performance against the Chicago Blackhawks. Edmonton won 8-4 and Sam was in on all 8 goals, scoring 4 of them himself.

The last time anyone had an 8 pt night was Mario Lemieux in 1989, shortly before Gagner was born.  He was  being mentioned by every hockey fan, hockey blogger and hockey journalist – alongside Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey, the two Oilers greats whose record he had tied.  The question on everyone`s mind after the game was `Can he follow up on this performance?’

The question was put to rest in the following game against the Wings where Edmonton would win in a shootout, with Gagner providing two goals in the regulation time and one in the shootout. It appears that he may have found his niche on a line with Eberle and Hall.  Its only two games, but it sure looks like Sam Gagner has found his game again.

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