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Posted on Thu. Apr. 10, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

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Komets still need to clinch and figure out potential opponents

Almost anything is possbile heading into final weekend

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For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blakesebring and at his blog www.tailingthekomets.com.

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No, clinching Wednesday night would have been too easy, especially for this Fort Wayne Komets team.

Pull out a piece of paper and try to tag along as we explain all the things that might happen by Sunday night's end of the ECHL regular season. You might need two pieces of paper, a big eraser and an abacus.

The Komets' final two games will still mean something because Wednesday night's results complicated everything.

The Florida Everblades fought off elimination Wednesday by forcing overtime in the final minute and then beating Reading 3-2 in a shootout. That means the Komets lead the Everblades by two points with each team having two games remaining. The Komets could have clinched with a Florida loss in regulation. The Florida win also helps the Komets because it clinches the first tiebreaker for Fort Wayne if necessary, most nonshootout wins.

The Komets will clinch a playoff spot with any Fort Wayne win or a Florida loss in regulation. If the Komets lose Friday night against Evansville in regulation and Florida beats Reading, then the Komets would need a win Saturday against Toledo or a Florida loss in regulation, overtime or shootout at home Saturday against Greenville. If the Komets lose in a shootout or overtime Friday and Florida wins, the Komets would still need to earn at least a point Saturday if the Everblades win that night.

The basic facts are the Komets need two points if the Everblades win both games. If Florida earns three points, the Komets need one. If Florida earns two points, the Komets are still good even if they don't earn any points.

If that hasn't sent you searching for anti-anxiety medication, figuring out which opponent the Komets could face in the playoffs is even more confusing.

Defending ECHL Kelly Cup champion Reading has clinched the top spot in the Eastern Conference and will play the No. 8 seed in the first round. The Royals will play their first two home games April 17 and 19.

It's not assured those games will be against the Komets, however, because there's a chance Fort Wayne can finish seventh. The Komets are two points behind Wheeling for seventh place with each team having two games remaining. The Komets need to win against Evansville on Friday and Toledo on Saturday and have the Nailers lose both to pass Wheeling because the Nailers hold the first tiebreaker over Fort Wayne.

If the Nailers lose one of the two games in overtime or a shootout, the Komets could still finish one point ahead with two wins. If the Nailers lose both games in an extra session they would clinch seventh place.

Wheeling plays at Cincinnati on Friday and Saturday, and the Cyclones are tied with Orlando for fourth place and the home-ice advantage in the first round. Orlando hosts Greenville tonight, Reading on Saturday and Greenville on Sunday. After losing to Kalamazoo in overtime Wednesday night, Cincinnati plays Wheeling twice at home and finishes at Toledo on Sunday.

If the Komets finish seventh, they would likely play South Carolina or Kalamazoo in the first round. The Stingrays are one point ahead but have only one game remaining at home Friday against Elmira, while the Wings play at Toledo on Friday and host Evansville on Saturday. Kalamazoo would have the tiebreaker over South Carolina.

South Carolina will host its first two games April 18 and 19. Though Kalamazoo has not announced any playoff dates, Wings Stadium is also free those nights.

There are also slim chances the Komets could end up facing Orlando, Cincinnati or even Greenville in the first round. All three teams still have a chance to finish second but would need lots of help. Greenville could finish second with three wins, a bunch of losses among the teams ahead of the Road Warriors and a tiebreaker edge over South Carolina.

So we'll probably have to wait until at least Saturday night to find out who the Komets will play in the first round, and even then we'll need one, no, two guys from "The Big Bang Theory'' to figure everything out for sure.

Should the Komets make the playoffs, Memorial Coliseum has plenty of good dates available, which the Komets could share with the Mad Ants. This would be the first season both squads have made the playoffs.

Still working

While the Komets are scoreboard watching and waiting for games Friday and Saturday, they are also working on several things. Coach Gary Graham has emphasized frequently of late he still thinks there are several areas the Komets can improve on.

"I think our transition out of the D zone needs to be crisper and our offense off the rush, we still need to be a drive the net type of team off the rush,'' Graham said. "We still are unwilling at times to get pucks to the net off the rush and look for those second chances. And also getting pucks through from the points. That's just the little things on offense that will help us.''

Why say no to shootouts?

In the summer of 2010 the National Hockey League felt there were too many shootouts and they were taking emphasis away from overtimes. The number of shootouts had increased the previous three seasons, so the NHL Board of Governors changed the tiebreaker to exclude shootouts. The American Hockey League and ECHL quickly adopted the rule.

Congratulations, Brandon

The Komets' Brandon Marino holds a seven-point lead in the ECHL scoring race over Alaska's Peter Sivak. That's a lot of points to make up even though the Aces still have three games to play compared to the Komets' two.

It will be the first time a Komet has won a league scoring title since Lonnie Loach during the 1990-91 season. Marino also needs four points to tie his career high of 90, and he'll be paying attention today when the ECHL announces its all-league squads.

Icing the puck

Unless the Komets win their final two games they could tie or even break the franchise record for fewest home wins in a season. The original 1952-53 Komets set the mark with 14 and the current Komets have 13. ... The team's annual season awards will be presented after Saturday's game. ... Chris Auger has set a career high with 29 goals as has Mike Embach with 27. ... The penalty kill has been the best thing about the Komets all season and has allowed only one goal in the last 16 chances. ... The power play has also improved lately, scoring on four of its last 12 and seven of its last 32. ... If the Komets win their last two games, they'll be 6-1-1 over their last eight games, which would tie their strongest stretch of the season. The went 5-0-3 in early February.


This column is the commentary of the writer and does not reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Blake Sebring at bsebring@news-sentinel.com bsebring@news-sentinel.com> .


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