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vs. Bloomington
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Radio: 1190 AM
Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Tab Lardner has sparked the Komets’ offense since his arrival, tallying 17 goals and 22 points in 27 games.

Lardner at center of Komets’ turnaround

Tab Lardner let out a smirk.

“I feel better,” he said. “I feel great.”

Better than he did Nov. 26, when he was dumped by Missouri for future considerations and given to a Komets team at the bottom of the CHL.

A couple of days later, the Komets went on their worst run of the season, losing seven in a row.

“We were getting crushed 5-1, 6-1, and there seemed to be no end of it,” Lardner said.

But there finally was an end; the Komets are 13-3-4 since snapping that streak and have hopped to 14th place among the CHL’s 18 teams with an 18-18-5 record.

The Komets have won five in a row heading into tonight’s game against the Bloomington PrairieThunder (24-15-2). Lardner, a left wing, has been a big part of the turnaround.

“He’s just a top-notch veteran,” Komets coach Al Sims said. “He says all the right things on the bench. He’s obviously a great goal scorer, … and he’s just been an incredible story for us.”

In 27 games with the Komets, Lardner has 17 goals and 22 points. Over the last 11 games, he’s averaged a goal per game. Quite a change from his 15-game stint with Missouri, when he had 10 points and clashed with coach Scott Hillman.

“I came in and just wanted to play my role,” Lardner said. “I think they wanted me to be more vocal in the room, and I do say my piece here and there, but it’s hard to switch teams and start demanding stuff out of guys when you were on another team yourself. Guys don’t know you and they’ve never seen you play, so it’s tough in that regard to just start reaming guys out over little things. You don’t want to go there.”

When the Komets re-signed center Colin Chaulk on Jan. 3, immediately making him captain, it took the pressure off Lardner in the locker room. When they put Chaulk and Lardner on a line with the playmaking Derek Patrosso, it upped Lardner’s goal production.

“I’m not much of a playmaker, but I’ll throw every muffin I have on net, so hopefully they go in,” said Lardner, 31.

The Komets are getting back center Leo Thomas, who had 11 goals and 20 points in 26 games before spraining his ankle, and adding tough guy Jon Mirasty, who is on loan from Syracuse of the AHL.