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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets defenseman Ryan Culkin is likely out until the playoffs because of a broken hand.  

  • Vytal Cote

Thursday, March 08, 2018 1:00 am

Komets notebook

K's could seek help at deadline for defense

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

With 18 victories in their last 22 games, the Komets certainly aren't looking to make huge waves heading into the today's 3 p.m. ECHL trade deadline.

However, they may need to solidify their defensive corps.

While they signed a new blue-liner Wednesday – Vytal Cote – he can't solely fill the void left by Ryan Culkin and Cody Sol, who are weeks away from returning from injuries.

“We're talking to a couple of teams about defensemen, maybe,” Komets general manager David Franke said. “I think if we make any moves before the deadline it would be there. I think we're happy with our forwards crew, but obviously we may need to fill some things on defense.”

Culkin, who is sixth among ECHL defensemen with 38 points, suffered a broken hand last week. The belief is that he'll return around the opening game of the playoffs – the Komets need only eight points in their last 15 games to guarantee a playoff spot – and their first postseason game would be around April 13.

The Komets hope that Sol, who has missed the last eight games with an elbow injury, can return around April 6.

“We're hoping he can make it back and play some games before the playoffs and get back into the swing of things,” Franke said.

Losing Culkin and Sol affects the Komets at both ends. In 53 games, Culkin has 11 goals, four of which have come on power plays. Sol has seven goals and 26 points in 47 games. Combined, Culkin and Sol are plus-45.

Cote has one assist, 62 penalty minutes and a minus-7 rating in 31 games this season with Adirondack and Greenville. The rest of his professional career, 60 games, has been spent in the lower-level Southern Professional Hockey League where he's totaled five goals, 17 points and 82 penalty minutes.

Adding to the need for a defenseman is that captain Jamie Schaafsma, who has missed six games with a lower-body injury, is now expected to be out a couple more weeks. Schaafsma, who has 12 goals and 24 points this season, had dropped back from center to defense several games this season.

Mallards player fined, suspended

Quad City Mallards captain Triston Grant was suspended 14 games and fined an undisclosed amount of money by the ECHL for punching Justin MacDonald during the Komets' 4-3 victory Sunday in Moline, Illinois.

The two were jawing in the faceoff circle before Grant pulled MacDonald toward him with his left hand, dropped his right glove and punched MacDonald in the face. MacDonald, who was in a defenseless position, is now out with a concussion. Grant, who was assessed a match penalty during the game, had just returned from a five-game suspension for kneeing and boarding.

No update on Houser's return

The Komets still have no word on whether goaltender Michael Houser, who was called up to Tucson of the American Hockey League on Tuesday, will be back in time for Friday's game at Kalamazoo, Michigan. Garrett Bartus will start if he's not and they're looking at a potential rookie replacement.

In the meantime, the Komets have had Andy DiCristofaro, Indiana Tech's goalie coach, and Alex Zion fill in at practice.