Fife Flyers assistant coach Jeff Hutchins reckons injuries have forced the team into play-off mode following a string of solid performances.
And he praised the impact former Minnesota Wild forward Brett Bulmer has had in turning the team’s fortunes around.
Despite missing three key imports, a depleted Flyers side claimed seven points from the last 10 to keep themselves afloat and within the middle pack in the Elite League.
Ahead of a tough run of three fixtures in four days, Hutchins is hopeful that the team can continue their return to form, regardless of whether injured players return or not.
“Considering the injuries we’re carrying it’s a testament to the guys buying in,” Hutchins said.
“We’ve adjusted our game plan slightly in terms of how we approach games.
“Our mind-set has turned into play-off hockey where we’re concentrating on limiting mistakes.
“Because we’re short on bodies our effort level has gone up in terms of forwards knowing they need to do more to keep hold of the puck in the offensive zone so we play less time in the defensive zone.
“They’ve bought into that and are back-checking and back-pressuring the puck when we lose it.
“It’s been a complete team effort, and we’ve had fantastic goal-tending over the last five games, which helps.
“Guys are recognising the situation and the stage we are in the season, and are being accountable, making sure they are not being the weak link and playing for each other.
“That’s something we’ve been focusing on.”
Hutchins believes the form of ex-NHLer Bulmer has been a key factor in Flyers improved fortunes.
“Brett has really bought into the last five or six games and is doing the right things,” he said.
“He’s chipping pucks deep and going after them. He’s being physical, and that’s just a boost for everyone else when they see a guy like him doing that.
“It just sets the example and then it’s hard for others not to jump on and join the crew.”
Flyers host a Cardiff Devils side in a battle for their third straight EIHL title tonight (Thursday) before heading into a double header with Sheffield Steelers.
“Cardiff are always going to be tough,” Hutchins warned.
“They dismantled Sheffield the other night.
“They’re very deep and they play the right way, do the little things and sacrifice their bodies.
“It’s going to take us, regardless of whether we have a full line-up or not, to be pretty near perfect in the game to try and win that one.”
After a poor season by their standards, Sheffield find themselves in the unusual position of scrapping for a top eight place.
“They are in desperation mode,” Hutchins said.
“They only have six games left so they’re going to need every game to try and secure their play-off spot.
“They’ll be ready. It’s a two-game series we can treat as a potential play-off series.”
It was unclear whether Paul Crowder, Scott Aarssen or Evan Stoflet would be fit to return.
Speaking on Tuesday, Hutchins added:” We hope to get as many as possible back in the line-up but at the moment they are still being assessed.”