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  • Giving thanks for practice
      The Komets spend a lot of time practicing shootouts, which isn’t surprising given their 8-8 record in them in their first two seasons in the ECHL.
  • Komets forward makes it look easy
    In the Komets’ last game, a 3-1 loss to the Greenville Road Warriors at Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, forward Eric Faille had one of the easier goals you’ll see at a professional hockey game.
  • Ks cough up puck, game to Greenville
    For the first time this season, the Komets aren’t on top of the Eastern Conference standings. Losing three of five games will do that to a team.
vs. Kalamazoo
When: 7 p.m. today
Radio: 1190 AM, 92.3 FM

Komets surging with new outlook

Moves lessened talent, but improved locker room

– Don’t look now, but the Komets are on a bit of a surge.

They are 2-0-1 in their last three games, 5-3-2 in their last 10, and they’ve pulled into eighth in the Eastern Conference. The top eight teams qualify for the playoffs, and the Komets have 42 games remaining to secure the postseason berth they failed to capture last season.

The Komets (13-11-6) play host to the Kalamazoo Wings (16-11-3) tonight. The game was scheduled for Sunday but was postponed by the weather. Tickets for Sunday will be honored tonight, when former Komets captain Colin Chaulk makes his return to Memorial Coliseum as an assistant coach with the Wings.

“I think the right guys are in the dressing room right now, and there’s a lot of positivity,” forward Chris Auger said. “Obviously, we’re here for results, and it’s about getting the two points (each game). … It’s a process.”

The Komets have strung together two or more consecutive victories only three times this season.

And there have been a lot of personnel changes. The trade Monday of Mike Vaskivuo, who left the team of his own accord Dec. 26, along with Nik Pokulok to the Elmira Jackals for Matt Carter and Christian Ouellet was Fort Wayne’s ninth trade in eight weeks.

The Komets have sent nine players to other teams, and they have acquired eight, not including David Rutherford, who declined to report after Orlando traded him. Brett Lyon was traded for and then traded out. And the Komets are still owed future considerations by Orlando for Mickey Lang and by Utah for Cody Reichard.

Even though the Komets’ lineup lately has been light on talent – Rutherford not reporting was a blow and it took time to move Vaskivuo, the 2012 Playoff MVP from the CHL – the results have been better thanks to improved chemistry.

“The locker room is definitely a lot different before games and on the bench,” coach Gary Graham said. “Guys are really buying into what we have to do.”

And the Komets have been playing with a little swagger, which is easier when you have the ECHL’s leading scorer, Brandon Marino (39 points in 30 games), and a hot goalie in Andrey Makarov.

“As a group, if you can believe that you’re going to win a lot of hockey games, more than you lose, you get that swagger and that confidence,” Graham said.

The Komets’ next 11 games are all against Kalamazoo, Toledo, Elmira and Wheeling, none of which is more than four points ahead of Fort Wayne.

“We’re going to keep moving forward,” Auger said. “There are a lot of games left and we’re right in the mix of things. … We’re just sticking to the game plan and it’s going to pan out for us.”