FORT WAYNE – The Komets have Americans, Canadians and one Russian, goaltender Andrey Makarov, and they will have a lot of rooting interest when the men’s Olympic hockey competition begins Wednesday in Sochi, Russia.
Oh, it’s going to be 100 percent competitive. I’m Canadian and can’t wait to bet and win some money off these Americans, center Jason Dale said.
But the Olympics could have an effect on the outcome of the Komets’ own games, too.
Because so many of its players will take part in Sochi, the NHL goes on a break from Sunday though Feb. 25. NHL teams will still want some of their players to keep working, so they’ll send some down to the American Hockey League, and there could be a trickle-down effect for the ECHL.
Until it happens, you don’t know what the impact will be, said Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham, who has spoken with other coaches expecting there to be a shift in the ECHL rosters.
Fort Wayne’s lineup shouldn’t change because it, Colorado and Las Vegas are unaffiliated with NHL clubs.
But it could be another story for opponents of the Komets.
During the break, the Komets will play against Kalamazoo (affiliated with Vancouver and St. Louis), Cincinnati (Florida and Nashville), Wheeling (Montreal and Pittsburgh) and Florida (Carolina and Tampa Bay).
Because of its collective bargaining agreement with the players’ association, the NHL’s rules allowing players to be sent down during the break are stringent. In layman’s terms, the better players and bigger prospects cannot be sent to the AHL, but players who aren’t used much or who haven’t spent much time in the NHL can be sent down.
Why wouldn’t you want some of those fourth-line guys going down to the AHL and then have some guys wind up in the (ECHL)? Graham asked.
Surely, the Olympic break won’t have nearly the effect of the NHL lockout, when the entire makeup of the ECHL changed last season.
It’s one of those things you probably won’t notice until before a game, Dale said. You’ll see the roster and think, Oh, this guy is down.’ It’s a little bit of a potential change.
The Komets (19-14-9), who play host tonight to Kalamazoo (23-16-4), have gone 4-1-1 over their last six games.
We’re playing more consistently, with the exception of (Jan. 31), when we gave up that (three-goal) lead (in a 4-3 overtime loss to Elmira), which was disappointing, Graham said. But if you look at our body of work since the beginning of the year, we’ve been getting more consistent. We’ve been getting more consistent goaltending and a better effort both with and without the puck.