Wichita Thunder

Thunder looks to get well at home

While Wichita Thunder fans are generally a loyal bunch, many have clearly lost patience with the struggling franchise.

The Thunder was booed during an embarrassing home-opening loss, and such verbal disapproval continued with alarming regularity as the team lost five of its first six home games — failings that contributed to the firing of Brent Bilodeau as coach last week.

The organization hopes leadership from injured Jason Duda, who was named interim coach, can help the team recover from a 2-9-1 start.

More immediately, the Thunder must stop putting on lackluster, often-boring shows at home.

"We have got to bring some excitement back to the Kansas Coliseum," general manager Joel Lomurno said.

The first opportunity comes tonight when Arizona (4-6-2) visits the Coliseum. On Saturday, Tulsa plays in Wichita.

There may be reason for Thunder fans to show at least guarded optimism. Under Duda, the team is shooting more, hitting more and showing signs of life in the third period.

And the roster has been tweaked since the last home game.

Tough guy Chris Kovalcik, who has been out with an injury, is expected to make his debut tonight. The 6-foot-3 defenseman had 24 major penalties for Tulsa last year.

"He's one of those guys who will do anything that's asked of him and more," Duda said. "He's a high-energy guy. He'll go out there and bang and crash and, if need be, he can take care of himself and any of the guys, too."

Newcomer Jason Deleurme, a 5-foot-8 forward, showed that he might be able to help the Thunder's awful offense, scoring a goal and an assist in his first game with the team. If his equipment arrives, defenseman Kevin Truelson may play tonight too.

Duda said he has made a few adjustments designed to give the team more offensive chances. He has been fairly pleased.

"We've probably improved our play over the last three games, but the bottom line is winning," Duda said. "That needs to start Friday."

Notes — The Thunder is expected to place goaltender Tim Boron, still recovering from off-season surgery to both hips, on injured reserve today. The Thunder will also sign Jon Horrell, but Scott Campbell is expected to start tonight.

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