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at Flint
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Radio: 1190 AM
Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Gazette
The Komets’ David Hukalo, going for the puck against Quad City’s Jacques Perreault on Dec. 4, has seven goals and 13 points in 20 games.

Komets forward returning to form

Hockey players are notorious for hiding injuries from the opposition. So it’s not surprising that when David Hukalo was asked which shoulder had been repaired surgically – twice – that his response was, “Oh, it was my left knee.”

Hukalo, who was the Komets’ Playoff MVP last season en route to their second straight Turner Cup championship, missed the first nine games of the season after recovering from offseason surgery.

He remains a bit apprehensive about reinjuring the shoulder, so he’s changed his game a bit to compensate.

“I’m still sore,” he said, “so I try to be smart out there and pretty much try to only take the body and stay away from the real physical stuff.”

That doesn’t mean the two-time Best Defensive Forward – once in the United Hockey League and once in the IHL – is any less tenacious. And as the Komets’ offense has struggled recently, he’s tried to up his game to compensate.

It’s worked.

Hukalo has five goals and 10 points in the last six games, including a two-goal effort in Thursday’s 5-1 victory over the Bloomington PrairieThunder. In front of a sellout crowd of 10,454, the Komets scored four unanswered goals in the third period to win their second straight game.

“I’m a veteran out there and our team’s having trouble scoring and winning those close games,” said Hukalo, whose third-place Komets (17-11-1) play at sixth-place Flint (10-17-4) at 7:30 tonight.

“The vets have to step up – not just me, but all of us – and do what we did the last couple years and show the rookies how it’s done.”

Hukalo has seven goals and 13 points in 20 games, but only recently has he gotten back into shape after the health issues.

“I’m just feeling a little better now,” he said. “I’ve lost a lot of weight. Physically, I’m a lot better and it’s starting to show. … It took me awhile to get back into shape and into the roll of things. It was a tough summer, and I’m just glad that I’m back to where I’m supposed to be.”

Coach Al Sims is relieved to have one of his stars back, and another comes back tonight, when Colin Chaulk returns from a three-game absence because of a death in the family.

“With Hukalo being off so long, the six months from the end of last season till November, it was a long time,” Sims said. “Huks isn’t the type of guy to go to the gym a lot and ride the bike. He’s got twins and is busy at home. He’s not an exercise freak and it takes him a little bit longer to really get himself in the shape he was last year in the playoffs.”

In last season’s playoffs, Hukalo had eight goals and 14 points in 11 games.

“He’s starting to come back now and feel good about his game again,” Sims said.