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ECHL Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals series
Fort Wayne Komets vs Reading Royals
1) Thursday at Reading, 7:05 p.m.
2) Saturday at Reading, 7:05 p.m.
3) Thursday, April 24 at Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m.
4) Friday, April 25 at Fort Wayne, 8 p.m.
5) *Sunday, April 27 at Fort Wayne, 6 p.m.
6) *Tuesday, April 29 at Reading, 7:05 p.m.
7) *Wednesday, April 30 at Reading, 7:05 p.m.
*- If necessary
Every coach has a specialty where they thrive, and Gary Graham's is sitting in front of a TV trying to figure out the secrets of a playoff opponent.
Graham loves watching hockey games and then using what he can decipher in scouting reports. The playoffs are when those details are the most important. The postseason scouting reports are much more advanced than players receive in the regular season.
``They get individual packets of information, with detailed notes scouting reports, everything,'' Graham said. ``There's a lot more video during the playoffs. Everything is a lot more individualized in the playoffs because you have to be that way. When you are that way as a coach, it stresses the importance of the details when it starts with me.''
The Komets are preparing for Thursday's ECHL playoff opener at Reading. The Komets are the underdog against the top-seeded and defending champion Royals, and one way they can make up the difference is through scouting reports. The key to slowing down an opponent is knowing what to expect.
Graham will try to give his players that information in two ways, though scouting reports on paper and by providing video highlights of the Royals.
``The No. 1 thing you want to do is show a lot of tendencies which are going to be the notes in the scouting report so they can put two and two together,'' Graham said. ``Guys learn two different ways. some guys have to see it in a video, and some guys can pick it up out of a scouting report. When you show video in coordination with a detailed scouting report it's a lot easier to learn.''
Among the things he'll study are Reading's power play and penalty kill units, forechecking attacks, goaltending tendencies and defensive plans such as what the Royals like to do in the neutral zone.
``Normally when we do video, it's more on our own team,'' Graham said. ``Now it's going to be a lot more on the opposing team as well as a little bit on our team. We know who we are and what we have to do, but now it's going to be more about what we're trying to do to be prepared for Reading. We'll do as much as we possibly can.''
Is he worried about overloading his players so they are spending too much time thinking on the ice compared to reaction? Not really.
``It's a long season and you can't have that approach throughout the season or frankly you'll lose guys,'' he said. ``The playoffs are when everybody knows it's time to bear down on everything. That's when I try tighten everything up with the details.''
Dean Ouellet hasn't played in a game since March 9 because of a concussion, but he's itching to skate in the playoffs. Ouellet and trainer Zach Creighton were careful to make sure the center didn't to come back too soon during the regular season, but he's been cleared to play now.
``I feel pretty good right now,'' he said. ``I think I'll be close to 100 percent. I'm just going to bring my game and help the team in every situation possible.''
For the Komets, that's like making a big trade right at the end of the season.
``We have some options and some different ways we can get with our lineup, and that's going to be a challenge,'' Graham said.
The Komets have a combined 78 games of ECHL playoff experience on the roster. Aaron Clarke has the most with 19 followed by Jace Coyle and Mike Embach with 17 each.
Scott Fleming, Joe Hartman, Will Lacasse, Matthew Maione, Steven Summerhays and newly signed Justin Sefton will all be playing in their first professional playoff games.
As a comparison, Reading has eight players back from last year's ECHL championship team when the Royals had to play 22 playoff games.
Obviously, part of the Reading's focus will be slowing down ECHL leading scorer Brandon Marino. During the playoffs, he can expect extra defensive attention.
``I just play,'' he said. ``I think in the playoffs if a team gets too focused on one player it gives others room and space. We have the firepower right now that they aren't going to be able to worry about just one line. If that's the approach they take, we'll be able to hurt them elsewhere.''
Don't forget the Komets switch the start time for Sunday home games from 5 p.m. in the regular season to 6 p.m. in the playoffs... Somewhat like the Komets, the Royals got off to a slow start with a 10-9-1 record in mid-December, but they went 36-13-3 after that... Former Komets Bryant Molle and Josh Brittain now play for Reading, as well as Kevin Walrod who was one of the last cuts from Fort Wayne's training camp. Molle was on Fort Wayne's 2012 Central Hockey League championship squad as a rookie, and Brittain played 37 games with the Komets last year... The Royals are 34-1-2 when leading after two periods, including 19-0-1 at home... The Komets' Aaron Clarke has scored six goals in his last five road games.