Over the last 15 games of the regular season, the Fort Wayne Komets need to play with desperation every night, but how do their leaders convey that in the locker room?
``Every game is a must, and we're not out of it,'' Komets coach Al Sims said after Sunday's game. ``That's the bottom line. We have to bring it every night and hopefully that's enough. There are a lot of tough teams coming up, teams we have to beat.''
That starts tonight against Toledo at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum. The Komets are currently in 10th place in the ECHL's Eastern Conference, two spots out of a playoff spot.
Part of the problem has been a lack of scoring. They are 3-9 in February and have scored 11 goals in the nine losses. It's Fort Wayne's worst month since 1999.
How do the Komets break the slump? Think positive, captain Colin Chaulk said recently.
``I think you don't use words like `think' and `hope,' '' Chaulk said. ``You don't use words that have gray areas. The best coaches and the best teams all think they are better than they are. If you can convince yourself that you're better than you are, you're going to be that way. We just have to believe we're going to win and do it.''
It's obvious from their play that the Komets lack some belief. Some of the players can draw on past performances in tough situations as an example of what might happen.
Three years ago with Bossier-Shreveport in the Central Hockey League, Brett Smith was captain of a team that struggled all year before coming together to win a championship.
``We had stretches where we were losing games like this,'' Smith said. ``We battled through January and February and didn't win many games. We found a way, and now we have to find a way. There's no more time. We can't worry about who we are playing, but we have to worry about ourselves.''
The Komets have strong leaders, but even the most-experienced players can't always change things around with a speech.
``Everything has been said,'' alternate captain Kaleigh Schrock said. ``Having Chaulker back has been great. He's so vocal in the locker room, it's my job to go out on the ice and force guys to play as hard as they can by playing as hard as I can myself and really showing the guys what it's about winning games down the stretch.
``When you say everything in the room, there comes a time when... I've never heard anything that has won a hockey game in the locker room, it has to happen on the ice.''