The new Elite League season may only be a few weeks old, but Fife Flyers are already running into the same issues as last season surrounding injuries and lack of cover.
Flyers have lost two key centremen to injury in the shape of Chase Schaber and Shayne Stockton, neither of whom will be fit to face Coventry Blaze in this Saturday’s opening league fixture.
Sean Beattie is also out with a broken finger, and with an import slot in defence yet to be filled, it will be a short-benched Flyers side minus three imports who will face former coach Danny Stewart’s team at Fife Ice Arena on Saturday.
“It shows how exposed we can be with a couple of injuries,” head coach Todd Dutiaume said. “We’re so thin on the ground and injuries do hurt us.
“It is crucial we fill that role in defence, and get some extra bodies in here because in this league, it’s very hard to compete over the course of a season when you’re down imports.
“It’s that good a league now, we need to stay healthy in order to compete week-in, week-out and score four point weekends.”
Dutiaume is hopeful that neither Stockton or Schaber will be out for long, indeed he has both of them pencilled in for a possible return the following week.
However, he admits he is having to play a waiting game over filling his final import slot.
“It’s not a financial issue,” he said.
“We have the full backing of the club, it’s strictly the lack of players available right now, and it shows with a team like Braehead still being short of guys.
“With camps going on, and guys committed to try-outs, there is simply not the players available to bring in.
“That will change in the coming weeks as the trickle down starts from the American Hockey League and if players become available that make this team better, we won’t hesitate to make that change either.
“There will be guys coming in, and it will help us, it’s just going to take the time it takes.
“I know that’s not what everyone wants to hear, but it’s just the reality of the situation, and we just have to fight our way out of it.”
Despite his injury concerns, Dutiaume wants his team to make a winning start to their EIHL campaign in a one-game weekend.
“We’d love to get some league points out of our first match,” he said.
“We swept them last year, but Coventry are going to be a completely different ice hockey club than they were last year.
“By all indications, it’s going to be our sternest test to date and we need to be switched on and ready for this club.
“They are certainly going to be favourites for their conference, and they’ll be coming up here with ambitions of continuing their good form from last weekend.”
As well as head coach Stewart, there will be another popular former Flyer among the Blaze ranks in last season’s captain Ryan Dingle, who left Fife in the summer to move to the Skydome.
“We know what we’re going to face from Ryan,” Dutiaume said. “He’s a leader, and he’s not going to let up.
“He was a good ambassador for this club so I hope he’s well received, but all being said, we want to beat these guys and lay down a marker at the start of the season.
“Fife is a very tough place for teams to come into and we’re hoping we can feed off that and put on a good performance.”
Flyers started their Challenge Cup campaign last weekend with a mixed bag of results, beating Edinburgh Capitals 5-2 in the home opener, before falling 7-5 to Dundee Stars on Sunday, in a match where Flyers conceded five times in the opening 13 minutes.
“In the third period we looked like the team we were the night before, but it was too little, too late,” Dutiaume said.
“At this point in the season you definitely have to take the positives.
“We have to use Sunday night as a good learning point and hope we don’t find ourselves in that situation again.”