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Komets

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Komets
vs. Gwinnett
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Radio: 1190 AM, 92.3 FM
Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
J.M. Rizk and the Komets have played 14 games in five different cities in the past 27 days. They play again at home tonight against Gwinnett.

Komets struggling with few practices

– Coach Al Sims is concerned about the Komets’ recent play, as they’ve lost seven of their last 12.

But in some respects, the difficulties have been a product of the scheduling.

The Komets have had a rash of injuries and call-ups to Norfolk of the American Hockey League. The personnel changeover has greatly affected the composition of the lineup. But the Komets have had little time to practice – in the past 27 days, the Komets have played 14 games in five different cities – and that’s made it hard to get young players acclimated to the Komets’ systems and find the right line combinations.

More importantly, with so little practice time (about only four full-fledged practices since Dec. 7), the Komets have had little time to work on what ails them.

On Monday night, there was plenty of that in a 9-4 loss to the Toledo Walleye in front of 10,103 fans at Memorial Coliseum. The Komets hadn’t given up so many goals since 2007, and it ended a 9-0-1 streak for the Komets on New Year’s Eve.

“We need a practice,” coach Al Sims said. “We haven’t been able to practice with all the games over the past little bit and, … we all need a refresher.

“We were in the game (Monday), down two goals going into the third period. We tried to put more pressure on them and pinch our defensemen (in the offensive zone), which we normally don’t do. But unfortunately, when you don’t have any time to practice it or have a chance to work on it, we need some saves and unfortunately our goalies struggled a little bit (against the Walleye).”

Overall, the Komets are 16-14-2. Blaming the schedule might seem like an excuse – only eight of the 23 ECHL teams have played fewer games than Fort Wayne – but Sims said he has had to be careful not to squeeze practices in at the cost of rest.

“You have to be careful how hard you work your team at certain areas of the year,” Sims said, before practicing Tuesday. “With us going through this stretch of 25 games in 44 nights, you have to be careful you don’t exhaust them by, say, practicing (Tuesday) and then having nothing left (tonight). We want them to have lots in the tank, and we still want them to get some important stuff done (in practice).”

Tonight, the Komets play host to the Gwinnett Gladiators (22-11-1), whose .662 winning percentage is second among the 14 teams in the Eastern Conference. Fort Wayne is 7-9-0 at the Coliseum. The Gladiators are 13-7-0 on the road.

The Komets waived forward Stephon Thorne, who had two goals and three points in 26 games this season, and forward Brayden Metz, who was scoreless in one game. However, en route to Fort Wayne from Norfolk were former NHL players Luca Caputi and Corey Elkins, and defenseman Nick Schaus.

Regardless of the outcome tonight, Sims has a practice planned for Thursday before taking on the North Division-leading Cincinnati Cyclones (19-10-2) on Friday at the Coliseum, when the first 1,000 fans will get Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock bobbleheads.

jcohn@jg.net

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