Fife Flyers head coach Todd Dutiaume has identified this weekend’s games as potentially pivotal ones in the club’s season.
Flyers welcome Elite League leaders Braehead Clan to Fife Ice Arena on Saturday before travelling across the Forth to face bottom club Edinburgh Capitals on Sunday.
Defeat to Clan would see Flyers fall six points behind the Gardiner Conference leaders, while a victory would put Flyers just two points behind, with a game in hand.
It’s a potential four-point swing that - even at this early stage - could have some bearing on the destination of the conference title.
“These are two division games we want to get maximum points out of because we want to stay on Braehead’s heels,” Dutiaume said.
“We don’t want them to open up a gap then they have breathing room to make mistakes.
“They’re finding ways to win all their hockey games right now, but we’re no slouches ourselves.
“We’re playing good hockey and hopefully we find a way to get those two points and narrow that gap.
“All we can do is apply pressure until we catch them or overtake them, which is a goal of ours.”
Fife and Braehead have developed a big rivalry in the EIHL with closely fought incident-packed games attracting big crowds, and Dutiaume expects Saturday to be no different.
“Emotions are high, the crowds are good, and the guys really feel they are in a hockey game,” he said.
“The teams match up pretty well so they’re tight encounters and there’s always a little bit of niggle in it, which is fine - that’s hockey.
“It’s nice to have those rivalries, that’s what you play for and it’s exciting.”
Dutiaume is also wary of the threat posed by Edinburgh after their shock win over Nottingham Panthers last Sunday ended a 14-game losing streak.
“Rolling over Nottingham is no mean feat so maybe they’ve turned a corner,” Dutiaume said.
“We always knew they had the potential to be dangerous. Whenever teams are in a losing streak they’re eventually going to bust out of it.”
Flyers go into the weekend on the back of a 6-1 defeat in Sheffield where Flyers’ curse of having goals waved off south of the border struck again.
Chris Auger thought he had equalised the match at 2-2 only for referee Mike Hicks to first award, then disallow his goal for high sticks, leaving Dutiaume fuming.
“The ref calls the goal, goes to the penalty box, then his linesman talks to him, and they wave off the goal,” Dutiaume said.
“It’s a case of another goal down south waved off - that’s five or six now - and after that guys really did lose a bit of composure.
“They were fed up and it was difficult to rein them back in. We have to find a way to stay mentally strong and keep going even when you feel something is untoward.
“We just have to focus on ourselves and try to beat everybody.”