The Komet who is playing the best right now may be the one who gets overlooked the most.
Center J.M. Rizk has scored five goals and nine points during his last six games. He's also been much more aggressive physically, confronting opponents after most whistles, crowding the front of the opposing net and leading the forecheck.
``Rizky has a little competitive edge to him, even though he's the nicest guy in the world, so you wouldn't know it,'' linemate Kaleigh Schrock said. ``When he's out there, he's pretty serious. He plays with passion, which is why he's had success.''
And Rizk is getting most of his goals from within 10 feet of the net where he can use his size.
``I think it's all confidence,'' Rizk said. ``As a second-year player, you know you can hang with these guys and play with these guys, so you try to build off that.''
Especially since Rizk and linemates Schrock and Matt Firman or Mike Hoban are playing against the opponents' top offensive line each night. It helps that they trust the Komets' defensive and forechecking systems. They are sticking to the game plan, proving every night that it works, which means Rizk is creating a lot of turnovers in the opposing and neutral zones.
``A lot of that is trusting it, and you know if you put pressure on them they will turn it over if you are patient,'' Rizk said. ``Once you see the results, it's easy to keep going.''
The key is consistency, both in effort and production, Rizk said. His line is comfortable and confident in following coach Al Sims' directions. They've used it successfully during the tightest playoff games, and their play is critical to the Komets' success.
``We rely on him as one of the leaders of our team,'' Schrock said. ``We rely on the way he plays defensively and offensively and for him to play with toughness. If we're going to be playing against the other team's top line every night, we've got to be tough and let them know that we're finishing every check and backing each other up. It's nice playing with guys like that, guys you trust.''
Though it looks like NHL training camps will open Sunday, at press time the Komets have not heard from Norfolk of the American Hockey League yet about any call-ups.
In other roster news, forward Matt Kennedy is ready to play after recovering from a pulled groin injury, and there's a lineup spot for him because forward Thomas Beauregard is likely going on 21-day injured reserve list with an upper body injury.
Forward Mike Hoban has remained in Fort Wayne on call-up from Dayton.
Defenseman Brent Henley's knee brace has not arrived yet, but the Komets are hoping it arrives today so he can play against Evansville. Henley broke his custom-made brace Jan. 2, but it has a lifetime guarantee.
Player of the week
Komets center Corey Elkins was named the ECHL's Player of the Week on Tuesday after he scored three goals -- including two game-winners -- and added three assists and was a plus-5 in four games last week.
After he suffered a shoulder injury Friday night, no one on the team expected Matt Firman to play the rest of the weekend, but the rookie forward even scored the game-winning goal Saturday night.
``I got bruised and it gets better every day,'' Firman said. ``It's tough to take a hit, but I'm just doing what I can out there. I know we're a little low on numbers, so I'm just doing what I can to try and help the team.''
Defenseman Nick Schaus uses a stick with lots of tape around the knob. That allows him to hold the stick in the palm of his hand.
``I mess around with it, so sometimes it's bigger and sometimes it's smaller,'' he said. ``It's almost like a baseball bat, and this is the same idea as that. It gives me more torque on the stick when I handle the puck.''
Icing the puck
Two other players who have been putting up good numbers are center Brett Smith with an eight-game point streak and defenseman Dan Nycholat with four points in his last five games. ... Saturday's crowd of 12,228 in Cincinnati is the largest the Komets have played in front of since April 10, 1999, when they played in front of 13,011 against the Chicago Wolves. ... The Komets are shooting for Jan. 18 as a potential return date for center Colin Chaulk from a shoulder injury and foot infection. ... After playing Evansville four times in the first five weeks, tonight's game will be the first time the teams have played since Nov. 17. They play seven more times.