Forward Corey Elkins hadn’t even practiced with the Komets yet. Based on what he did Wednesday night, other ECHL teams better beware when he does.
The former NHL forward, who was sent to the Komets by Norfolk of the American Hockey League, had the game-winning goal, an assist and a plus-3 rating in the Komets’ 4-2 victory over the Gwinnett Gladiators in front of 5,429 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
“He’s obviously a huge kid (at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds) and he can skate,” coach Al Sims said. “He can fly. He went through them three or four times and didn’t have any luck until that last one.”
After poor play in the second period saw the Komets (17-14-2) cough up a two-goal lead, the 27-year-old Elkins, who is from West Bloomfield, Mich., got things righted. He attacked the net and was upended by defenseman Justin Weller, but not before Elkins directed the puck between the legs of Gwinnett goaltender Louis Dominque.
“Luca (Caputi) made a real nice play in the middle to get me the puck and I just had a bunch of speed going. I made my move to the net, got my stick in there, and it was a good goal,” said Elkins, whose goal was followed by Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock’s empty-netter.
Elkins had a goal and played three games with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings in 2009-10. The Komets’ other former NHL player, Caputi, had three assists Wednesday, while Thomas Beauregard scored twice in the first period.
Also back in the lineup was goaltender Marco Cousineau (2-1-0), who had last played Nov. 3 at Kalamazoo, Mich., when he injured his groin in a Komets victory. He was ready to return to the lineup Dec. 15 but was called up to Norfolk, where he was the backup in six games before stopping 28 of 30 shots against the Gladiators, who played two men short of a full 18-player lineup.
“It was nice tonight,” Cousineau said. “To be honest with you, when I went down to Norfolk I thought I might play one, but you never know. I worked hard down there and I was ready to play. The only thing, the question mark, was ‘Mentally, am I ready to go back in and do what I have to do?’ I did tonight.”
“I just showed up and played the game that I play. I wanted to enjoy the game and feel what it’s like to be out there again. This is why we get paid: To play hockey. I’m really happy my teammates showed up tonight. We played well and guys blocked shots.”
Also back in the lineup for Fort Wayne was defenseman Nick Schaus. Popular forward Stephon Thorne, who was waived to make room Tuesday, was claimed by division-rival Toledo.
“Having Schaus back there is huge,” Sims said. “He’s a great defenseman. He really is at this level because he’s so strong and calm with the puck. … And I thought Luca really bought in on the back check. In the first period, he was coming back all the time. And Elkins is used as a defensive guy up in the American League and he’s used to doing that. But he got some offense going tonight, too, which is nice for him.”
Dominque (10-3-0) stopped 30 of 33 shots for Gwinnett (22-12-1).
Notes: The starters for the ECHL All-Star Game, which will pit the stars against the host Colorado Eagles on Jan. 22, will be Reading goalie Philipp Grubauer, Reading defenseman Denny Urban, Stockton defenseman Nathan Deck, Idaho forward Justin Dowling, Ontario forward C.J. Stretch and Casey Pierro-Zabotel of Gwinnett.