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K's coach lauds defensive play

Lost in the Komets' offensive output of late -- they have 18 goals in their four-game winning streak -- has been how well the defense is playing.

"Yeah, defensively, we're fourth in the league," said coach Al Sims, whose team is allowing 2.79 goals per game, including eight during the last four games.

"We've come a long way since the start of the year. We've just improved steadily."

The Komets have lot of inexperience on the blue line, with rookies Bryant Molle and Tristin Llewellyn, and David Starenky, who had played only in the semipro Ligue Nord Américaine de Hockey since 2007.

"It's a tribute to the talent of our young guys," said Sims, whose team plays Friday and Saturday at Rapid City, S.D.. "Especially Bryant Molle, who has played exceptionally well. And Llewellyn and Starenky have done well. Adding a veteran like Brent Henley was huge, too. We started winning almost instantly when he came here (Oct. 29)."

Sims also credited the forwards for the defensive prowess. Only two players on the active roster, center Colin Chaulk and defenseman Jamie Lovell, have negative plus/minus ratings.

"The forwards have been doing their part defensively," Sims said. "And (goaltender Nick Boucher) really has some confidence going right now with this group playing in front of him."

Last season, when the Komets went 31-27-8, they ranked eighth in the CHL by allowing 3.09 goals per game. Offensively, they ranked 16th with 2.83 goals per game, and now they're third with 3.71 per game.

Notes: Center Brett Smith is on a 13-game point-scoring streak, the longest in the league this season, during which he has 22 points. The team record is 21 games by Keli Corpse, who totaled 31 points in the UHL in 2001.... The Komets spent a lot of time this week focusing on their penalty kill, which ranks 12th with an efficiency of 76.7 percent.

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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