Tonight the Cyclones will get Their first look of the season at the Fort Wayne Komets. The ‘Clones currently sit 2nd in the North Division, leading the Komets by 2 points, with a game in hand. Up front the Komets are lead by Brandon Marino (9g-21a-30pts) and Josh Brittain (10g-10a-20pts). Their lineup also boasts 1.56 points per game forward Ryan Lasch; and even though those his numbers could be screwed with just 9 games played for the Komets, the 5’9” forward who has bounced around Europe and logged a few AHL games will be someone the ‘Clones will need to keep an eye on. The biggest threat in the Komet lineup probably comes from Luca Caputi. The 6’3” forward was a 4th round pick by the Penguins in 2007, has spent much of his career in the AHL but has logged 35 games in the NHL. He’s producing at a 1.11 points per game clip over his 9 games played this season. After those 4 players there’s a relatively large drop off production wise which should play into the ‘Clones hands, provided they play with the defensive fortitude we’ve seen for most of the season.
The Komets, like the Cyclones, are carrying 3 goalies on their roster. Ken Reiter (2.88gaa, .914sv%) has gotten the most work followed by Charlie Effinger (3.07gaa, 9.07sv%). Monday Night at the Cyclone’s Coach’s Show, Head Coach Jarrod Skalde said he expected Michael Houser to make his 1st start. Houser was place on IR during San Antonio’s training camp and assuming there haven’t been any set backs the former OHL player of the year will make his debut.
The ‘Clones need to make big efforts on special teams tonight. The Komet power play coverts at 13.5% which is only better than Cincinnati’s frigid 12.6%. However, while the Fort Wayne PK out performs Cincinnati’s, 83.9% to 83.3% respectively, the Komets have been whistled for a total 634 penalty minutes which is most in the Eastern Confernce and 3rd highest in the League. The ‘Clones have just 363 total penalty minutes. Digging a little deeper, the Komets have been short handed a total of 137 times to Cincinnati’s 96. The team that takes best advantage of special teams play will have a leg up tonight.
With 3 games left before the holiday break, tonight’s tilt in Fort Wayne is a big game. A win and the Cyclones will be within a point of Division leading Toledo with 2 games in hand. A loss and there will be a bit of a log jam at the top of the division. Also, a win allows for a split in the weekend series while a loss, would force the ‘Clones into needing a sweep over South Carolina to potentially keep pace with the rest of the Division.
We’re looking forward to seeing this weekend’s match up with South Carolina. The Cyclones won the first tilt 3-2, but with a split in Greenville and dropping 2 games against Florida, hold 2-3 record against the South Division. We were impressed with Florida. They had good size and speed which more than made up for their statistically questionable net minding. Based on what we’ve seen of the South Division thus far, we feel it’s the strongest of the 3 Eastern Conference Divisions. The only weak team in the South appears to be Orlando.
We’ll be checking back in over the holiday break with some big picture thoughts on the Cyclones as well as set up the first 6 games after the break.