Fife Flyers are no nearer to signing their final import defenceman, but the team could be strengthened with the return of three players from injury this weekend.
Shayne Stockton, Chase Schaber and Sean Beattie are all in contention to face Dundee Stars on Saturday as they get close to full health following recent injuries.
Their return would be a welcome boost for Todd Dutiaume’s short-handed side, who relied on netminder Andy Iles to perform heroics in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Coventry Blaze.
“We’ll be able to make decisions on them later in the week but they are all closer to being in the line-up than they were last week,” Dutiaume said.
“It’s a decent possibility that we could see all three this weekend, but we want to be careful not to rush them because all three players are going to play a big role on our team this year.
“Rushing injuries only leads to putting a band aid on it and it doesn’t get any better. We need to make sure they are taken care of, but they are improving which is a great sign for us.”
After the win against Coventry, despite being heavily out-shot, Dutiaume was pleased with the way his team responded to the 7-5 defeat in Dundee the previous weekend.
“It was a good bounceback from a performance nobody was happy with at all the previous Sunday,” he said.
“We had to absorb some pressure from a very good ice hockey club, but for the most part we handled it well and we took our chances.
“We paid a lot of attention to special teams during the week and we thought the kill was much better, although we’ve still some work to do, and we got a couple of PP goals.
“We were heavily out-shot, and while you don’t want to come across as making excuses, we were short-handed. Evan Bloodoff played 35 minutes, and Ian Young closer to 37 minutes, which is too much for these guys to absorb on a long-term basis.
“You get a couple of your boys in the box as well and it puts more tax on everybody involved. It was our toughest challenge to date and I thought we rose to it well. It hopefully means we’ve come through this hurt spell reasonably unscathed.”
Where Dutiaume remains frustrated, however, is in the hunt for his final import defenceman with no further progress to report from last week.
“We knew that unless there was some incredible stroke of luck, nobody was going to become available until after the try-outs in North America, so we’re still in exactly the same position,” he said.
“We could be talking about another two weeks before you have the trickle down from the AHL camps.
“A lot of guys who are sent down are going to end up re-evaluating their situations.People are very well aware we’re in the market for upgrading this team. As soon as right guy becomes available we’ll make that move.”
Dutiaume remains open-minded about the type of defenceman he will be looking to recruit.
He explained: “We wouldn’t want to pigeon-hole ourselves because if muscle becomes available, and it’s muscle that can play, be effective for us and log a lot of minutes – absolutely.
“But if a skilled guy can come in and run our special teams, I’d be crazy not to consider that.
“There are certainly guys we spoke to in the summer that we’ll keep an eye on how their situation goes.
“There’ll also be players who didn’t make it known that Europe was an option, but will maybe become disenchanted with the day-to-day grind of North America.
“Players will become available, although it’s not just teams in the UK looking. There are a lot of teams throughout Europe looking, it’s just that kind of market.”
Flyers return to Challenge Cup action this weekend, hosting Dundee Stars on Saturday before travelling to Murrayfield Ice Rink to face a winless Edinburgh Capitals side on Sunday.
“It’s our motivation to move on and challenge for the next round of the Challenge Cup this season but that takes a top two finish so this club has to be prepared to dig in this weekend and shoot for four points,” Dutiaume added.
“I think that’s crucial. We have to beat this Dundee team who have performed well in the cup then we have to go into tough Edinburgh building against a team who are hungry for a win, we just don’t want it to be against us. We’re going to have to be sharp all weekend to put ourselves in the running.”