Komisarek gets chance in 'home' game

Posted by Chip Alexander on October 19, 2013 

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Mike Komisarek didn't get to play in Toronto, but he will get a "back-home" moment and game on Long Island.

Canes coach Kirk Muller said the defenseman would be in the lineup Saturday against the New York Islanders, replacing Brett Bellemore. A native of West Islip, N.Y., Komisarek grew up in nearby Islip Terrace and will have 15 family members and friends at the game at Nassau Memorial Coliseum.

"I'm just looking forward to the opportunity," Komisarek said. "It's always nice to play in front of family and friends but it's nicer coming in and winning. We know the importance of this game. We had a good start to the road trip in Toronto."

Some expected Komisarek, who has been a healthy scratch most of the season, to play his second game for the Canes in Toronto on Thursday. The Maple Leafs signed him to a free-agent contract in 2009, but Komisarek had shoulder injuries and never was a major contributor for the Leafs, playing just four NHL games last season.

Canes coach Kirk Muller decided to go with Bellemore in the Leafs game. Komisarek and the other Canes scratches watched from the press level as the Canes won 3-2.

"I spoke with Kirk before the morning skate (in Toronto) and he understands I'm taking steps forward and trying to find my game and trying to build my confidence," Komisarek said. "He just didn't think it was the right thing to put me in there."

But Saturday's game is the right time, Muller decided.

"It's great for him," Muller said. "It's a process, step by step. We were really pleased with his last game -- he went in and played well (against the LA Kings).

"He's been the odd-man out but he's been a great pro. We've got three young defensemen he's been working with. But he knows he's going to get his opportunities, like tonight, and he's ready and he's prepared. We're all in his corner. We all want to see him do well."

Komisarek will be the only lineup change from the Leafs game and will be paired with Ron Hainsey, who will be playing his 600th career game.

Muller did make a few line tweaks: Jiri Tlusty again will start on Eric Staal's line and Pat Dwyer is back on Jordan Staal's line. Tuomo Ruutu will open on Riley Nash's line opposite Jeff Skinner and Radek Dvorak will center the fourth line with Drayson Bowman and Kevin Westgarth on the wings.

"Right now it's a matter of figuring where (Ruutu) fits in the best, on which line," Muller said.

Brett Sutter will be a healthy scratch at forward. Elias Lindholm and Tim Gleason continue to skate with the team as they recover from injuries.

Cam Ward will start in net for the Canes (3-2-3).

Komisarek was surrounded by the New York media Saturday, many asking about playing with Carolina and living in North Carolina after 10 years in Montreal and then Toronto.

"It's been a great fit for me, a great environment," Komisarek said. "The coaches have been really good with me in communicating, building confidence. The trust is there. Even though I've played just one game it's been exciting and been a really good fit for me.

"It's probably the first time in a couple of years where you really look forward to coming to the rink. … You're not under the microscope as you are in those (Montreal and Toronto) markets. It's been great for me."

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