Komets will do some tinkering
The tentative plan : and it certainly could change before the puck drops tonight : is for Shawn Szydlowski to play on a line with Jamie Schaafsma and Garrett Ladd.
Believe it or not, Szydlowski hadn’t skated often on a line with Schaafsma in the previous three seasons they were teammates.
But as Schaafsma, the Komets’ captain, tells it, there’s just no telling what will conjure up the perfect line combination. Sometimes they’re players who have a long history of skating with one another and know each other’s tendencies or sometimes it’s dumb luck.
“You might think two guys together is going to work but it doesn’t always,” Schaafsma said. “Chemistry is a funny thing and some players either have it or don’t. There’s also a work aspect to it and you talk to each other or get familiar after playing for a while and build chemistry as well.
“That’s the important thing right now, finding other players’ habits and starting to realize those while you’re in the game and you can start to anticipate what they’re going to do out there.”
The Komets (3-5-0), who are coming off victories over the Indy Fuel and Kalamazoo Wings, begin a string of three straight games at 9 p.m. today at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City, South Dakota, against the Rapid City Rush (5-3-2).
It will be the first game back for Szydlowski, last season’s ECHL MVP and leading scorer, since he left his team in Norway, Frisk Asker, last week to return to the K’s.
“Everything has been so hectic getting here,” Szydlowski said after his first practice Monday, before the team got on the bus for South Dakota. “I haven’t been able to talk much team strategy, but luckily we get to go on a long road trip and I’m sure I’ll get with the coaches and with the players (about things like line combinations).”
Schaafsma has two goals in four games this season. Ladd has two goals and four points in three games. Both returned last weekend from injuries that had keep them out four and five games, respectively, and the return of Szydlowski should help move Fort Wayne’s offense from its ranking of 14th among the ECHL’s 27 teams with 3.13 goals per game.
“If you’re struggling to score and you get a player like Shawn Szydlowski, you’re going to expect that to help,” Schaafsma said. “He’s a proven goal scorer. He’s the league MVP. He’s going to give us a boost. We know that. But we can’t just expect to put it all on his shoulders. We’re going to have to find offense from other players, not just Szyd.”
Justin Hodgman leads the Komets in scoring with two goals and 14 points and has a point in seven of eight games this season. Marco Roy, who has four goals and seven points, is on a five-game point-scoring streak.
As for finding the right line combination, Schaafsma said: “I think you need players that complement each other. If you have players of similar styles on one line, it’s most likely not going to work, like if everyone’s a passer or if everyone’s a shooter. It’s important to find that chemistry.”
No matter who coach Gary Graham puts with Szydlowski tonight, considering the Komets are already nine points back of division-leading Toledo, there may not be a ton of patience in letting thing jell.
“That’s the important thing right now, finding other players’ habits and starting to realize those while you’re in the game and you can start to anticipate what they’re going to do out there,” Schaafsma said.