Komets listening as trade deadline approaches

Komets defenseman Ryan Culkin. (News-Sentinel photo by Blake Sebring)

As the ECHL trading deadline approaches at 3 p.m. Thursday, the Fort Wayne Komets will be listening but not necessarily starting any discussions on possible deals.

“We don’t really have any irons in the fire right now,” General Manager David Franke said. “I think forward-wise we’re fine. On defense, that could be one area that we’re looking at. We’re not looking for a lot, we’re just trying to maintain what we have and be proactive if somebody is not going to make it back from injury, though that’s not the case from what the doctors are saying. We’re not burning up the phones that much.”

The Komets injury list got a little longer over the weekend as defenseman Ryan Culkin broke his hand in Kansas City when he was hit by a shot Saturday night. He sat out Sunday’s game in Quad City and will be out four-to-six weeks. Fellow defenseman Cody Sol also recently had successful elbow surgery to remove bone chips and is hoping to return for the last week of the regular season. He has already returned to the gym for workouts and therapy.

Forward Louick Marcotte is ready to come off injured reserve, but captain Jamie Schaafsma may be going on with various injuries. Schaafsma has already missed the last two weeks.

Goaltender Michael Houser was also called up Tuesday morning by Tuscon of the American Hockey League.

“We don’t think the situation in Arizona is real serious,” Franke said. “We’re hopeful that we’ll have Houser back for the weekend, but in the meantime we’re working on it.”

Another ECHL key date this week is the NHL/AHL assignment at midnight Wednesday. That’s where NHL/AHL teams can reassign ECHL players from one team to another. Franke said he’s not sure how much of an option that could be for the Komets.

With a 39-15-3 record, the Komets trail Toledo by four points in the ECHL’s Central Division but have played two fewer games than the Walleye. Fort Wayne has 15 games remaining and Toledo 13.

That said, Franke wants his team to concentrate on three games this weekend, playing at Kalamazoo on Friday before hosting Cincinnati on Saturday and Kalamazoo on Sunday. Fort Wayne is 2-3-1 against Cincinnati and 0-3 against Kalamazoo this season.

“Coming in first is great if you can because it gives you home ice advantage in the first two rounds, but the biggest thing we’re trying to concentrate on is No. 1 this week we play two teams that we have really struggled against,” Franke said. “One of those two teams we are going to meet probably in the first round. We have to do better on special teams against both clubs. If you look at the scoresheets, their special teams have been better than our special teams. We need to get top-notch goaltending against Kalamazoo, and we can improve on that.”

The Komets’ magic number for clinching a playoff spot is eight points. Fifth-place Kansas City can only get to 88 points if it wins all of its 14 remaining games, and the Komets currently have 81 points.