David Hukalo pondered retirement -- no, he doesn't know what he'll do post-hockey -- but a return to the Fort Wayne Komets for at least one more year was too good to pass up.
Winning a championship last season was too much fun. Having a pain-free body was too delightful.
Why not give it one more go-around?
"Yeah, let's do it one more year and see what happens," Hukalo said, after re-signing with the Komets on his 30th birthday, Monday. "If I go beyond this season will depend on how my body holds up. But last year, I didn't have any major injuries, which was quite a change from the few years before that. ... If I played, I didn't want to go anywhere else but here. This is home."
Hukalo was selected as the International Hockey League's Best Defensive Forward last season, a year after winning the same honor with the Komets in the United Hockey League. His offensive production en route to regular-season and playoff championships made Hukalo even more valuable to the Komets, who brought him back for his sixth season with the team.
"We expect him to move up and play on the second line," general manager David Franke said. "Due to his breakout season, we know he can do it offensively and defensively. He's an important part of the hockey club, a key to us winning championships."
Hukalo had career highs in goals (20), assists (24) and points (44) in 70 games last season.
His return gives the Komets nine players, including seven from last season -- forwards Hukalo, Colin Chaulk, P.C. Drouin and Konstantin Shafranov, defensemen Guy Dupuis and Kevin Bertram, plus goaltender Nick Boucher.
"That's a bunch of older, veteran guys," Hukalo said, "and to have them back with their winning traits, it's good. They know how to play, how to win, and it's good to have that group back."
The Komets also determined their three-game exhibition schedule: They will play host to the Bloomington PrairieThunder on Oct. 8 at Memorial Coliseum, play at Kalamazoo, Mich., on Oct. 10, then finish a home-and-home series against the Wings on Oct. 11.
Fort Wayne's regular season begins Oct. 17 at Port Huron, Mich.
- Franke said Luciano Aquino, who played last season with the Komets, will attended a prospect camp with the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning. ... Franke is also still hopeful goalie Kevin Reiter will re-sign with the Komets.
-- By Justin A. Cohn, The Journal Gazette