One theory why the American Hockey League's Norfolk Admirals are shipping players in and out of Fort Wayne every few days is to get the guys who haven't been playing some conditioning. They'll be needed immediately if or when the National Hockey League lockout ends and everyone's roster turns into chaos.
Sometimes those players have struggled to adjust, but on Wednesday night the Komets benefited greatly from new talent. Forwards Luca Caputi and Corey Elkins and defenseman Nick Schaus were dominant as the Komets beat Gwinnett 4-2 before 5,429 Memorial Coliseum fans. Caputi passed three assists, setting up two goals by Thomas Beauregard and the game-winner from Elkins with 3:59 remaining.
``Luca made a nice play in the middle and I had some speed going, and I was able to throw my stick in there,'' Elkins said.
It was a more complicated than that and took a special mix of speed and skill to get around the Gwinnett defense and still be able to chip the puck between the legs of Gladiators goaltender Louis Dominique.
``What can you say about the new guys?'' Komets coach Al Sims said. ``The first two goals, Beauregard was definitely feasting playing with those guys, and Corey comes up with the game-winner on a great individual effort. It's great to have guys like that in the lineup who can win a game at that point like that.''
No one knows if the trio will be here for Friday's game against Cincinnati, but the Komets are taking their affiliation day-by-day. If the NHL lockout ends, the player movement could be frantic depending on how many Norfolk players head to training camp in Anaheim. While the Komets are playing nine games in 14 days, the Admirals have two games this weekend and two games next weekend.
Everything could change with a New York press conference about as quickly as Elkins skated around the defense. The Komets might lose a few players back to Norfolk, and some ECHL teams could be looking to fill half their lineup.
Fort Wayne has won three of four games to pull within two points of Toledo and four from Cincinnati at the top of the ECHL's North Division. Besides playing on the road for the eighth time in their last 10 games, the Gladiators were also short-handed with nine forwards and five defensemen.
After a sluggish second period, the Komets ground down the Gladiators in the third. Playing for the first time in two months since he suffered a groin pull, goaltender Marco Cousineau made 28 saves and wasn't tested with too many great scoring chances.
``We weren't happy about our second period,'' Beauregard said. ``That's been a problem lately, especially at home. We just wanted to win. We know they are a pretty good team, and we managed to shut them down in the third.''
After giving up nine goals on Monday against Toledo, the Komets were delighted to bounce back. Now they can look ahead to three weekend games that could potentially help them climb in the standings.
They just aren't sure exactly who will be here to play those games. Like everyone in the hockey world, they are waiting to see what happens with the NHL talks in New York.