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Komets at Kalamazoo
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
Because it's early in the season, the National Hockey League is in a lockout and more players are coming in daily, the Fort Wayne Komets' dressing room needs some room to flex. It's not big enough for everyone on the roster to fit inside, so a team gathering resembles a town hall meeting with players trying to squeeze in.
Particularly the three goaltenders. Because they arrived first, Kenny Reiter and Charlie Effinger are dressing in the main locker room, and recent arrival Marco Cousineau is hanging out in the smaller back locker room where players dress in their civilian clothes after showering. He has plenty of room to stretch out.
``It's not the best thing, but it's part of the game,'' Cousineau said Monday, shrugging his shoulders as if to say, ``What can you do?''
Not much. Usually, minor league teams keep two goalies on the roster and have the phone numbers of a couple others for an emergency, but now most teams are trying to juggle three goalies because of the lockout. The Komets used Effinger and Reiter on opening weekend, while Cousineau was placed on the reserve list where he can be called on to play at any time -- as long as there's somebody else to take his place on the reserve list.
It's not a great situation, but it's the situation now.
``It's difficult in practice,'' Komets coach Al Sims said. ``They don't all get great practice time, but none of them are complaining and they are all happy to be here. We're just going to go with it for a while and see how it all settles out. All three guys have good stats and good backgrounds. Kenny made a statement the other night that obviously he wants the starting job. We'll just see how it goes.''
No one has a choice, really.
``I had it in college, and my first year in the ECHL we had three goalies for the better half of the season,'' Effinger said. ``That's just kind of the nature of the lockout right now. It's good for us because I'm competing with two other great goalies, so not only do I feel like I'm improving from watching what they do, I feel like we're all raising the level of practice.''
The toughest part is getting enough shots in practice, or even after practice if they can convince some forwards to stay. With the Komets only playing eight games through the first four weeks, no one can stay arrow-point sharp, but the schedule -- and the playing opportunities -- pick up after that.
Because there are usually only two of them on a roster compared with 10 or 11 forwards and seven or eight defensemen, goaltenders can sometimes be isolated a little from the rest of the team. Forwards can usually relate to defensemen, but no one can relate to goaltenders much because they actually like to get hit by pucks. The Komets actually have four goaltenders hanging around as Nick Boucher continues to heal from offseason hip surgeries.
Besides having enough goalies to play cards, there's also plenty of opportunity to watch and learn from each other.
``Just the different things that you can take away from their game and help use in yours,'' Reiter said. ``With me and Effie, we already have a pretty good relationship going from helping each other out with tendencies we see but also from the team we are playing. We're here to help each other get better, but we're competing as well.''
As an example, Effinger beat Evansville last year during the playoffs and was able to provide Reiter a few tips during Saturday night's 42-save, 6-2 win over the IceMen.
``I think we have a pretty good group of guys, and if we're all pushing each other and working hard so we're going to be able to give this team good goaltending night in and night out,'' Effinger said. ``At the end of the day, that's what it's about. All three of us will tell you we want to be in there, but we all want to win as a team, too.''
And Sims loves to hear his players talking about competing.
``It's the best thing,'' he said. ``Having those reserves in the stands also helps that you can take guys out and put them in. It keeps everybody pushing hard, and helps the coach to keep everybody playing hard. They know if they don't they can be out of the lineup the next night.''
Defenseman Colten Hayes cleared his physical Monday and is expected to join practice today. He's a 6-foot-3, 210-pound second-year pro player. Hayes, 22, skated this summer with Komets defenseman Brent Henley in British Columbia.
According to the American Hockey League, Norfolk has also sent defenseman Nick Schaus and right wing Matt Kennedy to the Komets. Schaus, 26, is 5-11, 200 pounds and skated the last two years in the AHL with Syracuse and Worcester. Kennedy, 23, is a 6-2, 210-pound right wing.