The Komets had hoped they would – finally – have a full 18-player lineup Saturday night.
That wasn't in the cards.
A victory wasn't either.
The Evansville IceMen won 3-0 to take a five-point lead over second-place Fort Wayne in the Turner Conference.
The IceMen (35-13-4) got 33 saves from Pier-Olivier Pelletier at home. It was only the third time this season the Komets (33-17-3) were shut out.
Saturday marked the return of Komets goaltender Nick Boucher, who had been suspended four games by the CHL for his actions in a brawl early in a game Feb. 17 with Bloomington. Boucher stopped 25 of 27 shots.
Dating back to that brawl, the Komets have played almost all of the last six games short of a full 18-player lineup. The latest missing player was center Brett Smith, who leads the Komets with 18 goals and 55 points in 47 games. He has a shoulder injury.
The Komets were also without captain Colin Chaulk (concussion symptoms), defenseman Dustin Molle (groin), forward Jesse Bennefield (leg) and goalie Alex Kangas (hip).
To make matters worse, forward Artem Podshendyalov was hampered by a leg injury, though he was still able to play, and defenseman David Starenky's hand was injured from his two fights in Friday's 5-4 victory over Arizona in an overtime shootout. Starenky spent some of Saturday's game at forward.
So, the Komets were two men short of a full lineup.
Evansville's goals came from John Ronan, Todd Robinson and Matt Pierce, who scored into an empty net.
The Komets have 13 games remaining in the regular season and the IceMen have 14 games left. The top four teams in the conference will make the playoffs and fifth-place Quad City, which was playing late Saturday, was 12 points back of the Komets.
The Komets are off until Tuesday, when they play the Mallards at Moline, Ill. Chaulk is expected to be back on the ice, after missing six straight games with his head injury, suffered when his head hit the ice during a fight with Bloomington's Ryan Palmer.
Chaulk's return is now pivotal with no set return date for Smith and the Komets short on centers. Leo Thomas and Chris Auger were the only natural centers at the Komets' disposal at Evansville.