Jeff Hutchins says injuries are no excuse for Fife Flyers as they look to cement their place in the Elite League play-offs.
Defeats to Coventry Blaze and Dundee Stars last weekend have left the injury-ravaged Kirkcaldy side perilously close to slipping outside the top eight.
With the reverse fixtures against the same two clubs this weekend - Dundee at home on Saturday followed by Coventry away on Sunday - Hutchins says the players must rise to the challenge.
“Everyone in our room knows what needs to be done,” he said.
“As a collective group they need to decide whether they want to overcome the adversity or use it as an excuse – that’s the bottom line.
“Coventry aren’t any more talented than we are, but they came in and put in a consistent shift over 60 minutes, and for us, that’s been an issue this year.
“And we didn’t lose Sunday’s game because we were short on D. We lost it because we took some shifts off, and made some mistakes in key areas.
“We need all players to buy into programme, and do what it takes to win, whether that’s blocking shots, going to the net hard, taking the body every single time, and not taking shifts off.
“That’s what it will take to win this weekend, because everyone is in a play-off dog fight right now.”
With six weeks of the season left, the EIHL middle pack are so tightly congested that Fife are still in a battle for all positions in the table from third down to 10th.
“A four point weekend would take us back to the same spot we were before last weekend,” Hutchins said. “I’m a firm believer that if we want to finish in the middle of the group we need to go .500 for the rest of the year, that’s the target benchmark.”
Flyers will again be without Evan Stoflet, who is both suspended and injured with a concussion, while Scott Aarssen is also out with a shoulder injury.
Paul Crowder remains doubtful after failing to pass the concussion protocol for last weekend, while Chris Wands is also sidelined.
With Flyers again likely to be down to a two-line defence, Hutchins placed the emphasis on the forwards to manage the puck.
“It’s important for the other three guys on the ice to pick up the responsibility and take the slack,” he said.
“If we play in the offensive zone, it means we don’t have to play in the defensive zone.
“So the message is to maintain and hold onto the puck, don’t take speculative shots, make it a grind for the other team and don’t turn over pucks in neutral zone.”
Flyers were unable to bring in any reinforcements before last Friday’s signing deadline, while attempts to dress Kirkcaldy Kestrels defenceman Martyn Simpson were scuppered by a registration problem with his two-way contract.
Hutchins added: “There are other clubs in the league who are short right now, and nobody brought anyone in.
“That should be an indication of what the market is like. We looked at it and there wasn’t anyone readily available we thought would upgrade our line-up when we’re hoping to have everyone back available, touch wood, after the next four games.”