Tab Lardner was as surprised as anyone to see the Komets, who won the last three championships of the IHL, in last place during their inaugural Central Hockey League season.
I was a little surprised walking into the dressing room there in Missouri and seeing Fort Wayne on the bottom there of the standings, Lardner said. So, it was surprising, but they turned it around this past weekend and I’m sure it’s going to continue.
Lardner is now one of those charged with helping the Komets (5-8-1) continue the strides that began last weekend with three straight victories. Acquired from Missouri for future considerations last Friday, he will make his debut tonight against the Bloomington PrairieThunder (8-6-1) at Memorial Coliseum.
He’s a player that can do a little bit of everything for us – penalty killing, power play, have a regular shift, Fort Wayne coach Al Sims said. He’s a smart player, a veteran guy, a wily veteran. He’s going to add some scoring depth and some defense, and some leadership.
Sims should know; he faced Lardner each of the last three seasons, when the forward was in Port Huron.
That included two playoff series, the 2008 Turner Cup Finals and 2010 semifinals, in which Fort Wayne overcame 3-1 deficits.
Lardner, who turns 31 today, joins two former Port Huron teammates – forwards Derek Patrosso and Brandon Naurato – on the Fort Wayne roster.
And I’ve played against the rest of these guys so much I feel like I know them already, Lardner said.
With Port Huron, Lardner tallied 95 goals and 186 points in 199 games. In his first season with Missouri (9-6-2), he played only 15 games, totaling three goals and 10 points.
It was a couple different things we didn’t see eye to eye on, Lardner, whose fiancée is from Missouri, said of the trade. There were a few things that I thought the game should be played one way and (they didn’t). It just wasn’t working out there. It was a good trade for both teams. (The Mavericks) get to bring in some young guys and Fort Wayne has seen what I can do in the past, and hopefully, I can bring some of that back.
Lardner was selected as the IHL’s Outstanding Defensive Forward in 2008-09, the only time during the last eight seasons the award went to a player not from Fort Wayne in the IHL or United Hockey League.
I’m just going to play my game and if it works, it works. I will keep it simple and score when I can, Lardner said. It’s defense first, and I’ll take some offensive chances if I can.
The addition of Lardner means the Komets will probably have to drop someone soon. The only reason they are below the salary cap is because three players – Patrosso, Danko Mironovic and Olivier Legault – are on injured reserve and don’t count yet.