Early pace-setters Fife Flyers will put their blistering form to the test this weekend when they face two of the teams vying with them for top spot in the table.
After a 3-1 win in Sheffield in midweek, Flyers are currently second in the EIHL standings, and with 15 points from a possible 16 they remain the only team without a regulation defeat.
All roads now lead to Fife Ice Arena on Saturday as the visit of league leaders Nottingham Panthers sees two of the oldest clubs in the UK go head-to-head in a mouth-watering top of the table clash.
Flyers then travel to Wales on Sunday to face a Cardiff Devils side who were all-conquering last season, having won both the EIHL and Play-off titles.
Another good weekend will see Fife emerge as serious darkhorses for the second season running, but head coach Todd Dutiaume is keeping his feet on the ground.
“We were in this position at one point last year, and people were wanting us to make predictions,” he said.
“It’s important for us as coaches to manage that in this dressing room.
“We come out every week and give them the same consistent message.
“We back our guys, work hard with them, and try to keep them grounded when people’s emotions around the team are going up and down.
“In here we try to stay level-headed regardless of what’s going on and just try to take it game by game.”
Having beaten Nottingham in the season series last year by three games to one, Flyers have every reason to approach Saturday’s match with confidence.
“We played confident against them last year and that’s what we need this team to do as well,” Dutiaume said. “We haven’t seen them this year so it will be good to see how the teams match up.”
Flyers also managed a memorable 8-6 win in Cardiff last year, but the Devils won all other meetings between the clubs, including the play-off semi-final in Nottingham.
“Cardiff were a class above last year, and we still managed to run a score up against them in their own building,” Dutiaume said.
“There were a couple of close games in Kirkcaldy, but in the semis in Nottingham we were missing a couple of key guys and we ran into depth problems.
“They consistently ran four lines at us and we ran out of steam. It was anti-climactic after that Manchester comeback. It’s tough to get the emotions back up after something like that happens.
“But Cardiff hasn’t won the league for two years in a row for no reason.
“It’s up to us to challenge them, and really believe we can take points off them.
“We’re going to treat them as any other team. We can’t sit back – we have to go after them.
“There’s a confident feeling in the room right now and we just want to ride that.”
After scoring 12 goals in two matches against Guildford Flames last weekend, there is reason to believe that Fife can hurt both Nottingham and Cardiff.
“You think back to the start of the season and we were having a hard-time generating some offence,” Dutiaume said.
“I think that was just a break-in period with the guys getting to know each other. Once again we have three lines which are capable of producing offence. It’s dangerous because it becomes, who do you watch?
“We’ve had to work hard with them but the guys are in a decent place right now.
“They have confidence in their goaltender, confidence in their offence, and our defence is playing well.”
Dutiaume is also encouraged by the work ethic shown in recent performances.
“It appears that guys are recognising the benefits of working hard,” he said.
“We know we can generate offence, but to sit back and rely on that, you’re asking for trouble.
“That’s not who we are, that’s not our team identity and I think guys are starting to realise that.”