FORT WAYNE – In this season of inconsistency for the Komets, killing penalties has been one of the few reliable parts of their game.
They rank third among the ECHL’s 21 teams with a penalty-killing efficiency of 88.4 percent.
So when it came to solving one of the poorest parts of their game – the power play – the Komets decided to emulate some facets of their penalty kill, namely the tenacity of getting to the puck and forcing it to the areas they want it to be.
It has happened at the behest of Konstantin Shafranov, the famed former Komets player, who was brought on as a coaching consultant Jan. 20.
The new coach has tried to create some other things, some new plays, and we worked hard on making it work hard like the penalty kill works hard, forward Christian Ouellet said. If we work as hard on the PP to get the puck and bring more pucks to the net, then we’ll have more success.
The Komets have been moving up in the standings with their recent 6-1-2 surge; they are tied for sixth in the Eastern Conference with an overall record of 21-14-10. The top eight teams will make the playoffs, and the Komets, who missed the postseason last year for the first time since 2002, have 27 games remaining in the regular season.
But the Komets’ power play ranks 15th in the league with an efficiency of 14.3 percent. At home, it ranks 17th at 11.8 percent.
The power play was in a particularly dreadful spell before Saturday – it had scored four goals over 42 power plays – but it has three in its last 10.
We have been trying other plays and special, short passes, Ouellet said, and we have to make sure we have movement. And we have a big ice surface here (at Memorial Coliseum), and it’s great for us on the power play to move the puck. We’re good on the penalty kill, and if the PP can move the puck, then it’s good for us.
Brandon Marino, who has 19 goals and an ECHL-leading 58 points, leads the Komets in power-play goals (five) and power-play points (14). Chris Auger, who has a league-leading 22 goals, has three goals and nine points on the power play.
The Komets play tonight at Cincinnati (26-17-2). Fort Wayne is 3-0-1 this season against the Cyclones.
I think we’ve been in a groove playing well since Christmas, Auger said. We’ve been consistently putting points on the board. If you look at this Eastern Conference, you can have a great week, and we’re coming off a great (2-0-1) weekend, but it’s still going to come down to the last week of the season.
What we want to do is continue to get better and that’s what we’re doing. We (have gotten) a couple days rest and then it’s up to the next biggest game of the season.
Notes: Former Komets defenseman Tyler Butler announced his retirement. He had two goals and 14 points in 29 games this season with Brampton of the CHL. Friday’s Komets game is the annual Comcast Report Card Night. Students who receive at least one A or equivalent grade on their report card get a free ticket to the game against Cincinnati. Students need to present a copy of the report card or a letter from their teacher or school administrator at the Memorial Coliseum box office. Tickets can be claimed anytime in advance of the game and you are encouraged to do so early, since the game often sells out. For each student, Comcast will make a donation to The Literacy Alliance, which helps people improve reading skills. Over the past 22 years, Comcast has donated more than $280,000 to The Literacy Alliance.