FORT WAYNE – Tonight’s game at Memorial Coliseum is interesting for the obvious – Mickey Lang making his return to Fort Wayne – but the importance for the Komets is about trying to get into the playoffs.
Heading into Tuesday night, the Komets (28-21-11) were tied with Florida (30-23-7) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, with 12 games remaining in the regular season.
The Komets owned the tiebreaker with Florida – most non-shootout victories – but they need to continue racking up points and that starts tonight against the Orlando Solar Bears.
The key for the Komets, as it was through their two wins in the last five games, will be getting quality shots and finishing them off.
It’s something we’ve got to do consistently. If we’re not going to do it consistently, we’re not going to be successful, Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham said.
Orlando (36-20-4) has lost three of its last four games. This is the first meeting of the season between Fort Wayne and Orlando.
While the Komets have the ECHL’s leading point scorer, forward Brandon Marino (75 points in 60 games), the Solar Bears have his former linemate, Lang, who leads the league with 38 goals in 49 games.
Lang has 21 of those goals in 25 games with Orlando since he left the Komets on Dec. 26 for myriad reasons he hasn’t discussed publicly. (Mike Vaskivuo left the team the same day and was later traded to Elmira.)
Lang was traded to Orlando on Dec. 28 for David Rutherford and future considerations. Rutherford never reported, and Orlando completed the deal Thursday by sending Aaron Clarke, who has two goals and three points in three games with Fort Wayne.
His presence has been important since the Komets have been battling through injuries to Chris Auger (head), Dean Ouellet (head), Matt Carter (groin) and Jason Dale (groin).
We did get reinforcements at the (Thursday) trade deadline, forward Sy Nutkevitch said, referencing Clarke, Mitch Bruijsten and Matt Bruneteau.
Chris Auger has scored a lot of goals for this team; he’s third in the league (with 26). And Dean Ouellet is a good player. But we still have the players in this dressing room to get the job done while they’re healing up.
In their last three games, of which they’ve won two, the Komets have been paced by a cast of unheralded players: Mike Embach has two goals and four points; Nutkevitch has one goal and three points; and Shawn Szydlowski has one goal and three points.
As a team, not necessarily individuals, we know we have to capitalize because some of our higher point-getters aren’t playing, Nutkevitch said. That means that collectively, as a team, we have got to bear down and find the chances around the net and do whatever it takes.
Notes: On Friday and Saturday, the Komets play host to Gwinnett and Kalamazoo, respectively. On Sunday, they play at 3 p.m. at Kalamazoo Mich., after a 1 p.m. game between alumni from the Komets and Wings.
The Komets alumni expected to participate include John Hilworth, Brian McKee, Ron Leef, Jim Logan, Kevin Bertram, Konstantin Shafranov, Kelly Hurd, Adam Lewis, Steve Fletcher and Olivier Legault. Serving as coaches will be Robbie Irons, George Drysdale, Chuck Adamson and Eddie Long.
Among the Wings expected to play are John Flesch, Bryan Jurynec, Tyler Rennette, Mark Vilneff, Alvin White, Brent Jarrett, Brian McDavid, Bruce Howes, Dave Agnew, Dean Kolstad, Ed Ward, Georges Gagnon, Jeff Reynaert, Jeff Turner, Tim Turner, Kory Karlander, Lou Nisker, Mark Lawrence, Matt Kruzich, Neil Meadmore and Tyler Kindle.