Though the National Hockey League is stuck in lockout limbo, Los Angeles Kings scout and former Komets coach and player Rob Laird has been plenty busy. He's been using the opportunity to concentrate even more.
Because the Kings were looking for one extra player last year to make a long Stanley Cup run, Laird's ratio of NHL to American Hockey League games was 7-to-3, but he's been able to focus on AHL games this season and prospects because of the lockout.
``I didn't feel like I knew the AHL as well as I had in the past,'' Laird said. ``I can really get a good read on the AHL this year and know what each organization has. I feel like I'm really gaining a lot of knowledge watching a guy several times as opposed to once or twice a year.''
He's also going to be watching more ECHL games, starting with Thursday's Komets' game against Kalamazoo. He wants to make sure he sees every player on NHL organizations' depth charts.
``I've been trying to make the best of the situation,'' he said. ``I'm doing a lot more driving than flying, but I'm still seeing three or four games a week, which is a light schedule for me.''
Thankfully, the hockey has been excellent. The trickle-down of the younger NHL players to the AHL and from the AHL to the ECHL has upgraded the talent level for every minor league team.
``I haven't seen a bad game yet,'' Laird said. ``Overall, at all positions, it's been upgraded. I haven't seen a weak team. The games have been really competitive for this time of year, almost like watching playoff hockey. There are jobs at stake because each team has about six guys sitting in the press box'
When told the same thing has been happening in the ECHL, Laird said, ``You have a lot of good players in this league, and what I'm seeing happening is, the players who have been at this level want to prove they can compete against the AHL guys. I think they are competing their butts off and they have raised the level of the game itself. The hockey has been really good.''
Because the Kings want the players to see the Stanley Cup rings first, Laird said he has not seen his newest piece of jewelry. That's another reason he's hoping the lockout ends soon, but he has no inside information to be discouraged about or get his hopes up.
He's just another guy going to a lot of games, wondering what's going on.
Hitting the road
Over the next few weeks, the Komets will start easing into the much more active part of their travel schedule. They are leaving Monday night to ride the sleeper bus to Gwinnett, which is a suburb of Atlanta, for two games. They'll have a normal practice on Tuesday morning before playing Wednesday and Friday.
The following week, they'll ride the bus to Detroit for a flight Dec. 5 to Orlando for three games. They'll fly home on Dec. 10 to get ready for the Dec. 12 home game against Kalamazoo, and then leave after that game to ride the bus to Reading, Pa., and Wheeling, W.V., for games Dec. 14 and 15 before riding the bus home all night for a home game against Kalamazoo on Dec. 16.
That's a rough stretch, but the rest of the schedule is a lot calmer as far as travel. They'll fly to Colorado in early February, bus to South Carolina in early March and to Elmira in late March. Everything else is a ``relatively'' short bus ride, meaning the team will leave the day of the game.
Icing the puck
Though the Komets are 32-14-2 at home in Thanksgiving games, they have not had a sellout since 1995. In fact, they have had only two crowds of more than 8,000 fans on Thanksgiving since then. … Fort Wayne has won 11 of its last 14 Thanksgiving games. … The Komets have played at home on Thanksgiving every year since 1962. … This will be only the second time the Komets have played Kalamazoo on Thanksgiving. ... Komets center Colin Chaulk has 995 career points. ... Thomas Beauregard has scored 99 ECHL all-time career (regular season and playoffs) goals in 190 career games. … defenseman Tyler Butler has scored 99 pro goals.