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Franke in 2003

GM demands better of K's

The patience of Komets general manager David Franke is wearing thin, as his team has lost 5 of 6 games, dropping to 8-7-1 overall for the 11th best winning percentage among the ECHL's 23 teams.

This wasn't what he had in mind after the team won the CHL championship last season – its fourth title in five seasons – and then put together a group of players perceived to be elite at this level, while also inking an affiliation with the NHL's Anaheim Ducks.

It's not lost on Franke that his team has had to endure an incredible number of injuries – forwards Chris Auger, Eric Giosa and Matt Kennedy, defenseman Ryan Hegarty and goaltender Marco Cousineau have been out weeks – and that call-ups to Norfolk of the American Hockey League have affected things, too.

However, put simply, the Komets haven't been scoring and Franke sees that as the primary concern heading into Wednesday's game at Gwinnett, Ga.

"The concerns right now are No. 1 our inability to score. That's something that we thought in the summer we had totally addressed," Franke said. "We do have to remember that we lost Auger for the season (to a knee injury) and we've also had Eric Giosa out since the third week of October (with an ankle injury). So that has hurt us offensively.

"But other than a couple guys, we're not getting enough scoring right now. Consequently, that puts more pressure on the defense and the goaltending. Our biggest concern right now is putting the puck in the net and making sure offensively that we're not putting our goaltenders and defense in a mode where they have to pitch a shutout every night. It's too much pressure. It's not realistic and we must start scoring."

The Komets' offense ranks 17th with 2.75 goals per game. The defense rates 16th, allowing 3.19 goals per game.

In the last six games, the Komets have been outscored 25-11.

The only consistent scorers have been CHL-MVP Brandon Marino (seven goals, 23 points), captain Colin Chaulk (two goals, 16 points) and Anaheim prospect Josh Brittain (six goals, 10 points).

Meanwhile, alternate captain Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock has no goals and one assist, Stephon Thorne has two goals and no assists and defenseman Tyler Butler, who was expected to be the top playmaking defenseman, has no goals, four assists and a team-worst minus-8 rating.

The Komets have been scouring the free-agent wire for players to improve the team and they expect reinforcements to be sent by Norfolk today, so time is running out for underperforming players to prove they deserve to stay.

On Monday, the Komets waived defenseman Colten Hayes, who was popular with the fans for his toughness, though he was scoreless.

"Everybody has got to be in tune with what's going on," Franke said. "I don't think anybody should really feel secure. We like to win and we're not winning now. We're not playing hard for three periods or playing Komet hockey for three periods. We'll give everybody a chance to come to the forefront, but we can't keep losing like this."

The Komets are hopeful Hegarty will play Wednesday – he is scoreless in seven games – and that Giosa (three goals in four games) will be back soon and that will make a difference.

But the next two games are against the Gladiators, who are 14-4-1 for a league-best winning percentage of .763, and then there are three games at Orlando, Fla., and the Solar Bears are 8-8-3.

Franke will be watching those games closely.

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Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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