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Last updated: April 12, 2010 2:58 p.m.

Hodgman returns 'home' to play for K's

By Justin A. Cohn
The Journal Gazette
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Cathie Rowand/The Journal GazetteCAT

Mr. Playoffs, Justin Hodgman, is coming back to play for the Komets.

Justin Hodgman is known as Mr. Playoffs in these parts, and with good reason.

He has totaled 14 goals and 26 points in 24 postseason games, netted the Game 7, triple-overtime Turner Cup-winning goal in 2008 and guided the Komets to back-to-back championships.

Now he's on his way back to Fort Wayne, where hopes of a third Cup remain.

Think he's feeling the pressure? No way.

"There's no pressure," said Hodgman, the IHL's Playoff MVP in 2008. "Obviously, the Komets have secured a playoff spot and played great all year to be where they are. I'm coming in just to work hard. No pressure. I just want to play like I always do."

Hodgman's performance in 2008 put him on the map with NHL scouts, but he returned to junior hockey for the 2008-09 regular season. He began this season with Rockford of the American Hockey League, one step below the NHL. The IceHogs sent him down to Toledo of the ECHL but later traded his rights to Toronto of the AHL, with whom he finished the season. He tallied seven goals and 12 points in 38 games with the Marlies.

"It was awesome to be given that opportunity," he said. "I had a lot of fun and learned a lot of things. ... At every level, there's stuff you can't get away with anymore. There are things you can do in juniors that you can't in the ECHL. Same with moving from the ECHL to the AHL. There are a lot of little things I've learned from playing with different coaches and players."

Whether or not he was going to rejoin the Komets, Hodgman, 21, was heading back to Fort Wayne. His fiance and 13-month-old daughter live here and he calls it "my new home."

But the Komets were in need of a top-line player after Konstantin Shafranov left the team Sunday to join Kazakhstan for the World Championships.

"This will be probably be, at least until he's done playing at a higher level, the last chance we get for (Hodgman) to come back here for the playoffs," said general manager David Franke, who expects Hodgman to get a one-way contract with Toronto next season. "We're fortunate to have him coming back here with Shafy moving on. And with (Hodgman) knowing the coaches, players and systems, it won't take long for him to get up to speed."

The second-place Komets (48-21-4) are five points back of Muskegon, which needs only one point, or one point lost by the Komets, to clinch home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Muskegon plays host to league-worst Dayton on Friday, when the Komets play at Quad City (28-35-11).

Hodgman will be in the lineup that night.

"I have a full year of pro under my belt now, which is huge for any player," Hodgman said. "I'm just a little bit smarter and I know more about the game."

Note: In the most likely first-round scenario, Fort Wayne taking on Port Huron, the Komets would host Game 1 on April 22, play Game 2 at Port Huron on April 24, then host Game 3 on April 25, Franke said.