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Komets searching for magic that makes good lines

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Chemistry, familiarity and communication are all part of it

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 - 2:06 am

When the Komets training camp started Oct. 6, coach Gary Graham figured he'd give everybody a head start by putting lines together so players could get used to each other.

That can only work so long, though, because of injuries, call-ups and roster moves. Sometimes those players find the mysterious glue that makes them successful, and sometimes they have to switch things up with new players.

Finding the right lines is a constant work in progress even though Graham knows exactly what he wants from each player.

"You have to have a guy who is going to win a lot of races,'' Graham said. "It's a guy I call a gopher. He's going to go in there and hunt those pucks down and be the first guy on the puck. Then the second guy is a playmaker and the third guy is a shooter, a gunner. You try to get those elements on every line so you can be successful in the offensive zone. On this team there are a lot of players who are both or who can do all three of those.''

The Komets have a few players this year who can possibly fill all three spots on any line, players such as Brandon Marino and Chris Auger.

"It's just chemistry, knowing who you're playing with,'' Auger said. "You have to be able to read the other guy without putting any thought into it. A lot goes into it, but mainly chemistry.

"A lot of that stuff gets sorted out the first couple of weeks of the season. You've probably seen already there's probably two guys on each line who are very familiar with each other and have good chemistry and then you're trying to find that third piece to go with them.''

Some of that camaraderie only comes from playing together. Any fan can watch Auger and Scott Fleming and realize they've played together extensively before while growing up, in junior and in college, or see that Marino and Mickey Lang played together for two years in Quad City. They can communicate with a look or by reading body language because they have skated down the ice together so many times before.

"It's chemistry and hard work,'' Marino said. "As long as every guy is willing to work hard and battle, you can have success. It's not about who you play with because as long as you have communication you can have success.''

Easy for him to say because the unselfish Marino is a delight to play with for anyone. His passing and hustle almost guarantee linemates will be successful.

Chemistry is huge because players have to move instinctively on the ice and need to anticipate what a linemate may be doing. A lot of that communication comes before players ever leave the bench. Constant chatter and planning happen between shifts. Each line also goes through drills together during practices.

"It's just guys talking and a lot of communication,'' center Bobby Hughes said, ``not being negative with each other and being willing to adapt to help each other. It's always tough to play with new guys, but you can develop the chemistry pretty quick.''

The Komets also have some interchangeable parts that Graham is not afraid to tinker with. If the team is struggling to score after two periods, he may come out with new lines for the third period. Sometimes it's coaching instinct, too.

"The best thing about this team this year is we have a lot of interchangeable combinations,'' winger John Dunbar said. "On any given night you put some combinations together that can be pretty dangerous.''

Maybe the most elusive factor in building a solid line is confidence. Through nine games, the Komets are averaging 2.78 goals per game, which ranks 12th in the 23-team ECHL. Everyone in the dressing room thinks this team should be good for at least one more goal per game, which would rank them third.

Of the Komets' six non-wins so far, five have been by one goal margin or included an insurance goal in the final minute.

A little extra line chemistry and one extra goal could mean a lot.