LOOKS LIKE A KEEPER
Due to an awful opening-night roster, late-season injury troubles and a seemingly endless search for leftover talent, the Wichita Thunder has suited up 46 players — too many of them forgettable and disposable.
Tomas Klempa, though, appears to be an exception. Although undersized, the rookie forward looks like a player the Thunder would benefit from bringing back next season.
Klempa, a native of Prestany, Slovakia, who played for four years at Nebraska-Omaha, started slowly in Wichita, scoring five points in his first 14 games.
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In his past six games, he has been the Thunder's hottest player, scoring seven goals and 12 points.
Klempa attributes the hot streak to his linemates — Joel Hanson and Jason Reese — and the fact that he finally feels comfortable with the Thunder, his third team this season.
"He battles in the corner and goes and gets the puck, and he's not afraid to take the puck to the net," interim coach Jason Duda said. "For a little guy, that's great to see."
For a little guy. The 5-foot-8 Klempa is used to that description, but he insists he plays bigger.
"I'm not afraid to take a hit to make a play," he said. "I'm never afraid to go into the corners and battle guys bigger than me because, obviously, everybody is bigger than me."
* Colorado's Kevin Ulanski will likely win the league scoring crown, thanks in part to his success against the Thunder. Ulanski has 15 points in seven games against Wichita. Ulanski can add to his totals tonight at Intrust Bank Arena.
* Thunder defenseman Chris McAllister (hamstring) may not return this season, Duda said. Defensemen Mark Adamek, Brett Beauchamp and A.J. Bozoian are on season-ending injured reserve.
* In addition to the 12-game suspension for a slash in Mississippi on Feb. 27, Thunder defenseman Steve Makway also was fined a week's pay.
The Thunder has scored 13 goals the past four games for an average of 3.25, allowing the team's season goals per game to creep up to 1.98.
This year's Thunder team is guaranteed to be the worst at home in the 18-year history of the franchise. The Thunder is 3-23-3 at home, with three games left at Intrust Bank Arena. In 2002-03, the Thunder won 10 home games.
TAP OF THE STICK
The Thunder's facilities are the envy of the CHL. In the annual Best of the Best poll, voted on by players, coaches and broadcasters, Intrust Bank Arena was chosen best arena. The team's locker rooms won, too.
* The Thunder is on pace to finish as the worst offensive team in CHL history. The 2002-03 Fort Worth team is in the books for the lowest goals-per-game average at 2.28. The Thunder is at 1.98.
* Yet again, Thunder fans were selected as the CHL's most annoying — a Best of the Best category the league needs to drop. Despite what some apparently think, it's not a compliment; there is, after all, a best fans honor, which Rapid City won.
Number of skaters the injury plagued Thunder used in its two previous games.
DEFINING DIGIT II
Number of Memphis wins, the fewest in league history, in 2000-01. The Thunder has eight with six games left. Memphis, though, played 70 games.
DEFINING DIGIT III
Number of Thunder players honored in the Best of the Best poll. But Thunder Dog was named second-best mascot!
HE SAID IT
"I'm not sure about the rhyme or reason for some of the suspensions (this season). Did he deserve to get suspended? Yes. Do I think he deserved 12 games? No, I don't.... I talked to them (the league) but obviously it didn't really matter. So we live with it."
—Duda on Makway's suspension
Colorado at thunder
When: 7:05 tonight
Where: Intrust Bank Arena
Records: Colorado 37-14-7, Wichita 8-45-5