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vs. Evansville
When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
Radio: 1190 AM
TV: Xfinity channel 81
Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne’s Leo Thomas, right, tries to score past Dayton’s defense during the first period of Sunday’s exhibition at Memorial Coliseum.

Center happy for a shot at redemption


Center Leo Thomas thought his time with the Komets had come to an end.

“Honestly, I did,” he said.

And Thomas couldn’t, frankly, blame the Komets for wanting to move on. His production last season was the worst of his eight-year professional career. In 50 games, he had only 18 goals and 27 points.

The whole team sagged last season, Fort Wayne’s first in the CHL. The Komets were in last place until February, finished 31-27-8 and were eliminated in the Turner Conference semifinals by Rapid City.

Thomas was one of the few who played well early – he had 11 goals and 20 points in the first 26 games – but a midseason high ankle sprain derailed him.

“I’ve never missed that many games in my career,” said Thomas, who sat for 15 games. “That set me back a little while. Once I got back from the injury, it took me awhile to get my legs back. But I worked on my durability in the offseason.”

He also believed he’d wind up with another team, after spending three seasons with the Komets, winning IHL Turner Cups in 2009 and 2010.

“I’m glad that I’m back now and we got something done,” said Thomas, among four centers on the roster. “I didn’t want to go somewhere else. Deep down, I had a feeling that could have been my last year (in Fort Wayne). But it’s behind me now. I’ve got another chance to prove myself in training camp and to have a way better year.”

The Komets have 22 players left in camp and must cut two by Thursday, and they are both likely to be forwards. Thomas’ abilities to play wing and contribute on special teams add to his value, but at 29 he may not fit into the team’s plans to get younger.

And Colin Chaulk and Brett Smith are sure to be centers on the regular-season roster.

“We saw some chemistry (Sunday) that we all liked,” coach Al Sims said of the Komets’ 3-1 exhibition victory over Dayton. “But we’re continuing to use our time to get guys really used to each other. We have five days of practice here and we need to get our power plays and our penalty kills going, and make sure we’re ready for Saturday’s season opener (against Evansville).”

Thomas said he’s completely over his ankle injury and plans to return to his scoring ways. In 2009-10, he had 33 goals and 60 points in 72 games.

“If I can chip in a good 25, 30 goals, that would be awesome and I plan on doing that,” Thomas said, adding everyone must be hungrier this season. “We need to have a better start than last year, obviously.”

Notes: Five home games will be broadcast live on Xfinity channel 81 with Kent Hormann handling the play-by-play duties and Bob Gnau doing color. The games include Saturday’s season opener, New Year’s Eve against Bloomington, Feb. 10 against Quad City and the March 25 regular-season finale against Dayton. The fifth game, which could come in the playoffs, will be determined later.