FORT WAYNE – The Komets have an opportunity to win the Turner Conference and get in good position for a playoff run.
But theyll do it without forward Artem Podshendyalov, who had 26 goals, 61 points and a minus-3 rating in 90 games over two seasons. He is returning to Russia so he can pursue a career in the Kontinental Hockey League.
He will be replaced by Mike Vaskivuo, who was picked up off waivers from Rapid City on Tuesday, a move that had been planned before Podshendyalovs decision to leave.
This season, Podshendyalov, 22, had 18 goals, 43 points and a plus-1 rating in 58 games.
Vaskivuo, 26, has 13 goals, 37 points and a plus-5 rating in 54 games.
If you look at Vaskivuos stats, he had 26 goals last season in Dayton and 25 the season before, so hes obviously skilled, Komets general manager David Franke said. Were definitely going to get better defensively with him in the lineup. Will he be as exciting and explosive offensively (as Podshendyalov)? Well just have to see.
The Komets (36-18-6) play host to the Laredo Bucks (24-33-3) tonight and Saturday at Memorial Coliseum.
Forwards Colin Chaulk and Brett Smith, who have captained championship hockey teams, believe the Komets recent performances have been unacceptable.
We have to get a killer instinct, said Smith, who led Bossier-Shreveport to the CHLs Ray Miron Presidents Cup last season. Theres not much time. Its going to be a short playoffs if we dont put our nose to the grindstone and finish those little plays. Everybody wants to win, but youve got to make sure you get the job done. Thats what we get paid for.
The Komets trail Evansville by two points and are coming off back-to-back losses to the IceMen in overtime shootouts at the Coliseum, where the Komets play five of their final six games. They are 16-7-5 at the Coliseum, 2-1-4 in their last seven.
With all these home games, we have to establish intimidation, said Chaulk, who has led Fort Wayne to four titles. We have to have a home-ice presence. We have to be more physical. We need to eliminate mistakes. We need to be more aggressive and force the play, get to playing a puck-possession game.
Notes: In the CHLs Best of the Best poll, picked by a panel of players, coaches and front-office personnel, Chaulk was selected as Best Leader and Best on Faceoffs. Defenseman Brent Henley won Best Defensive Defenseman. Henley is also one of five finalists for the CHLs Man of the Year, based on leadership on and off the ice, and humanitarian contributions.