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Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Gazette
Blair Stayzer has drawn shifts on both offense and defense in the early going for the Komets. He says his style is the same regardless.

Ex-K Wing finds value in versatility

‘Crash-and-bang’ enforcer joins Komets’ growing tough-guy list

Blair Stayzer is an intimidating presence.

The Fort Wayne Komets like that about him, but they also like his versatility.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound tough guy can play either defense or forward, and he’s likely to switch between the two, just as he did last season with the Komets’ former rivals, the Kalamazoo Wings, who left the International Hockey League for the ECHL over the summer.

“Yeah, it’s very weird being here in Fort Wayne,” Stayzer said. “There were a lot of battles with the Komets (when I was) in Kalamazoo. It’s good to be here, though.”

Stayzer totaled five goals, 12 points and 132 penalty minutes in 47 games last season with the Wings, with whom he split time between positions about evenly. He knows the same thing could happen with the Komets.

He’s already played both forward and defense for the 1-1-0 Komets. He’s scoreless but fought Mike Bray in a 5-4 loss at Port Huron, Mich., on Saturday night.

“Obviously, injuries are a huge part of the game. I’ve flip-flopped back and forth non-stop for at least the last three years,” said Stayzer, who said the hardest thing is not getting to settle into a position for at least a handful of games.

The Komets were decimated by injuries last season, so it’s not surprising that they signed players like Stayzer and Huntertown native Brandon Warner, who can shuttle between positions.

Stayzer said his style is basically the same regardless of which end of the ice he’s stationed.

“For me, even when I play forward, my role is pretty simple. I’m a crash-and-bang guy,” Stayzer said. “I won’t do anything too flashy. It’s the same way for defense. Make the good first pass, get the puck out off the glass and play tough. I won’t try to be too flashy.”

Fort Wayne coach Al Sims really took notice of Stayzer in the playoffs in the spring, when Stayzer played forward in a six-game first-round loss to the Komets.

“I thought he was really effective against us in the playoffs, when he was playing up front,” Sims said. “He’s just a big load in front of the net, plays the body and carries a lot of weight. … He told me he prefers defense, if possible, this season. We’ll see how it goes. He’s never won a championship, and I know he’s a hungry guy for that.”

To that end, Stayzer is willing to do just about anything for his teammates, including dropping the gloves to fight, which he’ll do often. Along with Brad MacMillan, Kevin Bertram and Fort Wayne native Kaleigh Schrock, the Komets have a slew of players who can take on the enforcer role heading into Friday’s home opener against the Bloomington PrairieThunder.

“I don’t think we’ll be worrying about (toughness) at all on this team,” said Stayzer, a native of Welland, Ontario. “It’s good when you have a lot of guys who can (fight). It obviously takes the load off me a little bit. I’m looking forward to having a tough team that can play.

“Although, the game’s changing. Every year, I think the fighting is going away, and soon you won’t see it as much.”

That is why Stayzer, 29, has to find a way to make himself valuable. His versatility accomplishes that.

Notes: MacMillan and Bray will be fined by the IHL for a fight after Saturday’s game, said the league’s vice president of hockey operations, Brad Jones. Both players received fighting majors and game misconducts. … The Komets are giving a tryout to forward Tomas Klempa, who had two assists in nine games last season with Wheeling of the ECHL.

jcohn@jg.net

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