Fife Flyers head coach Todd Dutiaume expects his team to continue their good run of form now that competition for places is beginning to heat up.
Import forward Jeff Lee returned to full training this week meaning that for the first time since joining the Elite League, Flyers go into the weekend with a healthy scratch.
Since signing in Nico Sacchetti in December, the Kirkcaldy side has carried 14 imports, one more than the permitted EIHL quota, but injuries have prevented everyone from being available at once.
With that luxury now afforded to him, Dutiaume has told his players that they must maintain their recent performance levels to keep their place in the line-up.
“The directors showed a lot of foresight in allowing us to keep that extra guy after we signed Nico,” the Flyers coach said.
“We’ve needed it to cover for injuries, whereas now, providing Jeff is back to 100 per cent, we can use it as motivation to keep players sharp.
“If guys don’t turn up to play, then we have the option of making a change in the line-up, which is a very fortunate position to be in as far as personnel goes.
“We won’t be changing for the sake of changing, the guys have been playing well, so it’s up to Jeff to find a way to win a spot in a line-up that’s been very successful of late.
“If guys are not up to par, or their performances dip, then we have a player more than capable of stepping in, and once he’s back in, I don’t think he will want to give that slot back.
“Jeff’s a big part of the squad but it will just be a bit of waiting game for him.”
With seven wins in their last nine outings, Flyers are a team in form, and Dutiaume feels that the increase in goal-scoring has been a key factor.
“Offence production has gone up substantially,” he said.
“It takes the pressure off the defenceman and goaltender because when mistakes are made they are not as crucial.
“The wins we’ve had in the last half of January and February have gone a long way towards boosting guys confidence.
“Everyone seems to be working together right now and we’re playing with a little jump in our step.
“If something goes wrong on the ice it’s not the end of the world - guys absorb it, drop the puck, and get on with it.
“There’s only 12 games left in the regular season so it’s a good time to be riding this high.”
Dutiaume also feels that a weight has been lifted off his players by the recent upturn in results and performances.
“Guys are enjoying coming into the building feeling less pressure,” he said.
“They were trying too hard to please people, now they are playing for themselves and playing good hockey - which is something we want to continue.”
In a reverse to their traditional weekend schedule, Flyers travel south to Coventry Blaze tonight (Saturday) before welcoming the West Midlands club to Fife Ice Arena on Sunday.
It will be the first meeting between the sides since the opening weekend of the season, when a 6-0 home win for Fife was followed by a 4-1 defeat in Coventry.
“They are another team playing very good hockey at the moment and matching us win for win,” Dutiaume said.
“It will be an Interesting weekend and two different teams since the start of the season.
“We’ll be going for another four points and it won’t be for the lack of preparation.”