FORT WAYNE – This is an unfamiliar position for the Komets, who have not missed the playoffs since 2002.
With only 10 games left in the regular season, they are 10 points back of Greenville for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
And there are two teams – Kalamazoo and Wheeling – wedged between them.
The quest to overcome the odds begins tonight, when the Komets (29-30-3) play host to the conference-worst Evansville IceMen (22-35-5) at Memorial Coliseum.
The fact that there’s another game is a good thing, alternate captain Brett Smith said. But we have to start winning. It’s getting to be too late. But there’s another game and we can come back at it, go after it, and keep pushing for the playoffs.
The task got harder Tuesday, however, as the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks recalled goaltender Jeff Deslauriers, who was 3-4-1 with a 2.57 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage and Norfolk of the American Hockey League called up center Jean-Michel Rizk. He had 19 goals and 31 points in 61 games with Fort Wayne.
The Komets have lost 10 of their last 13 games.
Worst of all, they are 12-18-0 at Memorial Coliseum, where they have averaged a league-best 7,543 fans.
Guys are playing for jobs, too, Smith said. We all love doing this and don’t want to do anything else, so we need to find a way to pull it together and at least finish strong.
Beating up on the IceMen, who jumped from the CHL to the ECHL with the Komets last summer, would be a good start.
Fort Wayne has won 5 of 9 games this season against its in-state rival, which is led by Todd Robinson, who has six goals, 62 points and a minus-36 rating in 54 games.
The Komets’ leading scorer, Brandon Marino, has 20 goals, 66 points and a plus-5 rating in 61 games.
Evansville is a dangerous team, right now, to play because they have nothing to lose, Fort Wayne coach Al Sims said, but we know them well.
The IceMen have lost four straight.
They’re a team everybody is beating right now, Sims said, and we’ve got to make sure we get the two points.
However, The Komets have scored only 25 goals over their past 13 games.
They need to get better, if they want to make a run at the postseason. They may have center Colin Chaulk (groin) and forward John Dunbar (ankle) back in the lineup tonight, though.