The Fort Wayne Komets have 28 games left to get a lot of work done.
The Komets sit third in the ECHL's North Division and are tied for seventh in the Eastern Conference. They've got 14 games at home and 14 on the road over the next 60 days starting Wednesday in Kalamazoo.
Coach Al Sims said over the weekend his primary goal is to finish first in the division. The Komets trail Cincinnati by nine points with one more game left on the schedule than the Cyclones, and they have three games remaining against the Cyclones, including Saturday night at home. The teams do not meet at all in the final month of the regular season, meaning the Komets will need some help.
The Cyclones have built the lead off a 13-7-4 record against division foes, while the Komets are 16-14-1.
The biggest thing the Komets have to do? Start winning at home where they are 10-12.
``We have a goal,'' General Manager David Franke said Monday. ``We've got 14 home games left and we want to go 10-4. That's going to maybe mean some changes in their preparation, the guys making changes the day before and the day of the game. I can't walk around with all of them on game day and make sure they are doing the right thing. These guys are all adults and professional hockey players, they have to figure it out.''
The Komets have not been able to win more than two games in a row at home all season. They are averaging 2.77 goals per game at home compared with 3.13 on the road. They are allowing 3.59 per game at home compared with 3.05 on the road.
`We have to take care of business on home ice, and there's no reason why we shouldn't,'' Franke said. ``We have a good fan support, we bring big crowds into the building and I'm almost seeing that our team doesn't get jacked up from it but the visitors do, and that's not the way it ought to be. We should make it very intimidating with our play and our fans for other teams to come in.''
The general manager also knows the team needs some changes. Forward Thomas Beauregard will be ready to play Wednesday after missing several weeks with a shoulder injury, and there's hope newly signed forward Matt Syroczynski may be able to play this weekend. Colin Chaulk may need a few weeks more to get ready as he tries to overcome shoulder and foot injuries.
The addition of Beauregard and Syroczynski should help the Komets' overall offense and especially the power play, which ranks 22nd in the 23-team ECHL.
``Special teams over the years for us have been very, very good,'' Franke said. ``We're giving up too many power-play goals and we're not scoring enough. I think the power play will be helped with Syroczynski and Beauregard, and now we have to look at our penalty-killing units and maybe we need to make some changes in that lineup, who goes out and who doesn't. Maybe we need to change our theory of the penalty kill and put more pressure on the point. I think that's something that Al and Colin will be working on this week.''
The Komets also have to make a decision on the goaltending, Franke said. There's no way three goaltenders can stay sharp, Franke said, so the team needs to make a move soon, possibly yet this week. With only three games per week the rest of the season, it's hard enough to keep two goaltenders sharp.
``I think that is important,'' he said. ``I think we've gone with three goalies long enough. There's not enough ice time any more for three goalies.''
The team is continuing to look for a defenseman to quarterback the power play. The deadline for players returning from Europe is 5 p.m. Monday. The Komets could also be looking at college senior players whose seasons may be ending soon or players from other American Hockey League teams.
``The last thing is we hopefully, eventually get Colin back in the lineup,'' Franke said. ``I don't think he's going to be back for at least three weeks. Whenever we get him back, we get him back, but I think at this point and time the team has been able to succeed without him so they are learning to play without him and his leadership and guidance and skill. But boy, it'd be nice if we can get him back back here before the playoffs start. Get him back and get him in shape and rhythm and then let him go.''
The ECHL trade deadline is 3 p.m. March 7.