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Brett Smith: Onus on K's players

With captain Colin Chaulk out of the lineup the last 32 games because of shoulder and foot injuries, alternate Brett Smith has taken up the mantle of bold leadership.

At least when it comes to bold predictions, of which Chaulk has made several in his career.

"This team is going to make the playoffs," Smith said, after losing 2-1 at Cincinnati on Tuesday night. "This team is making the playoffs and I'm doing everything to make it happen."

The Komets (26-23-2) have lost 4 of 6 heading into Friday's game at Evansville(17-30-5). The top eight teams in the Eastern Conference will make the playoffs; the Komets are two points back of eighth.

While coach Al Sims has praised the Komets' play lately, as they've been short-handed because of injuries, the players haven't been making excuses for their inability to produce victories.

The Komets, after all, won four championships in the last five years in the IHL and CHL and didn't expect to be scrapping for a playoff spot with 21 games remaining in the regular season.

"It's not there. And where is the answer? The answer is with us and it's only with us," said Smith, who captained Bossier-Shreveport to the CHL title in 2011 and helped the Komets to it last year.

"If you're not having your night, you've got to find a way to contribute. You've got to take a hit. You've got to get in the way of somebody, find a way. If it's your night, then go, lead the team. We just, for some reason, can't have that all together every single night. It's every other night, or every third night or not very often. We need to find a way to stick together."

The Komets play a home-and-home series with the IceMen before Sunday's game at Toledo (28-18-4). That will be the second half a doubleheader; the Komets' alumni team will take on Toledo alumni at 2 p.m. and the Komets' game is at 5 p.m.

Among the Komet legends scheduled to appear are Kevin Bertram, Kelly Perrault, Ron Leef, Martin Burgers, John Hilworth, Steve Fletcher, Carey Lucyk, Adam Lewis, Dan Price, Chad Dameworth, Doug Rigler, Dale Baldwin, Kelly Hurd, Doug Teskey and Bob and Bobby Phillips.

Twelve of the Komets' remaining games are against divisional rivals.

"Almost every team we're playing the rest of the way is within four, five or six points of us," Smith said, "and if we can win some of those games – win three or four in a row – then we'll be putting ourselves in a pretty good spot."

Notes: The Lutheran Health SportsCenter will host USA Hockey's Try Hockey For Free Day on Saturday, 10:30-11:30am. All equipment will be provided and there will be professional instruction on ice as well. Register at tryhockeyforfree.com. If you have any questions you can contact Jeff Jepson at jjepson@icesports.com.

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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