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Posted on Wed. Jan. 23, 2013 - 12:15 am EDT

KOMETS: MIDSEASON REPORT

Komets: Midseason report

Return of Chaulk, Beauregard give team basis for optimism

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ECHL All-Star Game

All-Stars vs. Colorado Eagles

When: 9 p.m. today

Web: www.americaone.com

TV: Replay on NHL Network, 1 p.m. Thursday

FORT WAYNE — After winning three IHL championships and a CHL championship over the past five years, the Kometsí first season in the ECHL has been rocky.

They are tied for second in the North Division at 22-19-2 and 11th among the 23 ECHL teams, nowhere near where the team hoped it would be at this point.

The end of the NHL lockout played a part as it altered minor league rosters, and injuries to key players Colin Chaulk, Chris Auger, Thomas Beauregard and Matt Kennedy have been problematic, too.

Hereís a look at whatís gone right and wrong for the Komets and what could affect them after the All-Star break:

5 best players

Brandon Marino: Last seasonís CHL MVP with Quad City, Marino has adjusted well to a new team and a new league. He has 12 goals and 47 points, which is second most among active ECHL players, and has been plus-7.

Jean-Michel Rizk: He improved from his rookie season, with 15 goals and 25 points in 42 games, and has shown he can be effective as a defensive center or on the top line.

Kenny Reiter: The Kometsí goaltending trio of Reiter, Charlie Effinger and Marco Cousineau is impressive, but Reiterís been the best. The rookie is 12-7-1 with a 2.84 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage.

Daniel Maggio: The rookie is the Kometsí biggest physical presence (a league-leading 36 minor penalties), best offensive defenseman (five goals, 16 points) and the only Fort Wayne player in tonightís All-Star game at Loveland, Colo.

Josh Brittain: Before he was called up to Norfolk of the AHL, the left wing had 13 goals, 27 points and a team-best plus-10 rating in 31 games.

4 biggest problems

Home woes: The Komets are 10-12-0 at Memorial Coliseum, where the teamís average attendance is 7,402.

Slow starts: The Komets have scored first in only 19 of 41 games and lost five of those games.

Penalties: The Komets average 20.81 penalty minutes, fourth most in the league. The biggest offenders have been Maggio and Brent Henley, who had 31 minor penalties before being called up to Lake Erie of the AHL.

Special teams: The power play ranks next to last (13.7 percent) and the penalty kill ranks 16th (80.5 percent).

3 reasons for optimism

Stars will return: The Komets, .500 in their past 10 games, will get stronger when Chaulk (2 goals and 17 points in 19 games) and Beauregard (15 goals and 21 points in 35 games) return.

Norfolk will help: Chances are Norfolk (15-21-3) misses the AHL playoffs and will send down players for the postseason. AHL players helped Florida win the ECHL title last year.

Road success: The Komets are 12-7-2 on the road and have scored just as many goals, 65, as theyíve allowed.

2 players to watch

Eric Giosa: Despite missing 21 games with an ankle injury, Giosa has eight goals and 15 points in 22 games. But heís minus-10. Look for those numbers to improve.

Ryan Hegarty: He has only three points and heís minus-8 in 30 games. But the rookieís play has improved lately, and he could evolve into the No. 3 defenseman the Komets desperately need.

1 thing that has to happen

Beat Cincinnati and Toledo: The Komets are six points back of Cincinnati and tied with Toledo. The Komets are 3-3-0 against the Cyclones with three games against them remaining. They are 2-5-0 against the Walleye with three games against them remaining.

jcohn@jg.net


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