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Gwinnett at Komets
Faceoff: 8 p.m.
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
Though he doesn't see himself as any big deal, Scott Fleming might be one of the best stories in all of minor league hockey this season.
The Komets center is technically considered a rookie, but he played six games at the start of 2011-12 season with Gwinnett before a concussion ended his year. He sat out the next year and three-quarters before deciding he wanted to come back this summer.
Try taking that long off, come back and see if anything can be accomplished at a high level. It should take months to regain the timing, skating ability and hand-eye coordination to play high minor league hockey, but Fleming has made it look pretty easy.
``I'm hanging in there pretty good,'' Fleming said recently.
He's doing better than that, as he leading all ECHL rookies with 31 points in 34 games before getting called up to the American Hockey League recently. His body has been a little bit sore with the pounding of a busy schedule, but that's understandable considering the Komets have already played 61 games. That's almost double the amount Fleming has played in a season at any time over the last six years. The most he ever played at Dartmouth was 32.
``It's a little bit different, but it's a lot of fun playing games,'' he said. ``Practicing is not what we want to be doing.''
Fleming has joined boyhood friend Chris Auger and ECHL leading scorer Brandon Marino to form one of the league's top lines. That's pretty amazing considering Fleming was a pure guess coming into training camp and Auger was coming off reconstructive knee surgery.
``I was pretty confident in my abilities,'' Fleming said. ``Maybe not at the start of the year but once I really got into things, I definitely have the skill and the drive to be a top-line player in this league, and I'm really happy I'm doing that right now.''
When asked if he's hit the wall that most young players face when their pass playing more games than they ever have before, he said he was fine. Because of an odd ankle injury, he missed a week after returning from the AHL, but he's still feeling strong and is looking forward to seeing how much he can produce.
``I've been playing this game for 20 years, and I'm pretty optimistic about things so I'm ready for anything and everything,'' he said. ``It's been an interesting year so far with the team, but I'm having a lot of fun and soaking it all in.''
Fleming said he's trying to stretch more, eat well and getting plenty of rest, especially when the Komets play four games in five nights. That might be the toughest adjustment after working for a year and a half as a commercial real estate researcher in Toronto.
``You can be in the best shape of your life off the ice, but the first time you step on the ice and start skating you're going to be tired,'' Fleming said. You just need to get into those games and get those reps. It's a Friday-Saturday schedule in college, so three-in-three is tough, especially when we are traveling. Once you are on the ice you forget about it and just play hockey.''
Going up to the AHL showed him how things are at a higher level where everyone skates a little harder, works a little harder and is a little bit more dedicated to being a professional.
``It's way more of a business so you just kind of take that and get a little bit rejuvenated, especially at this time of the season,'' he said. ``I'm doing good. There's always ups and downs, it's such a long season. I feel like I've been playing pretty well. There was a stretch where I wasn't putting up points but I was getting opportunities. I just wasn't able to get them in the back of the net.''