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Making playoffs will be tougher

CHL will have 8 playoffs teams, and two divisions

It was nearly impossible to miss the playoffs in the CHL last season, though the Komets gave it an effort by staying in last place until February.

The CHL has finalized its membership for this season -- there will be 14 teams split into two divisions -- and the league plans on having eight teams make the playoffs.

Considering 16 of 18 teams made the playoffs last season, this should increase the regular-season drama.

"I would suspect there will be an eight-team playoff picture for next year," Komets president Michael Franke said. "That's quite a few less than last year, but when you lose teams and go from 18 to 14, those are the things that are going to change."

Gone from the CHL are Colorado (now in ECHL), Odessa (now in North American Hockey League), Mississippi (now in the Southern Professional Hockey League) and champion Bossier-Shreveport, which suspended operations because of financial concerns.

Players from all of those teams have been declared free agents and can negotiate with anyone in the CHL.

Wichita dropped from the Turner Conference to the Berry Conference, so the Komets will be aligned with Rapid City (S.D.), Quad City (Ill.), Bloomington (Ill.), Missouri, Evansville and Dayton (Ohio).

And the CHL teams will play 66-game schedules, as they did last season, though the Komets will no longer be taking on some of Evansville's home games and, therefore, only have 33 games at Memorial Coliseum.

"It's a great conference alignment," Franke said. "I really don't know if you'd want to do it any other way. It will create a lot of travel for Arizona and Rapid City, so we've just got to make sure we schedule right for those two teams, so they get to see a good cross section of the teams."

Franke said that there will not be a luxury tax or profit-sharing system in the CHL, something that had been reported last month in The Monitor of McAllen, Texas.

The 14 CHL teams include four from the IHL -- Fort Wayne, Evansville, Dayton and Quad City -- but the two-year working agreement between those leagues expires after this season.

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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