Head coach Todd Dutiaume believes carrying a positive mental attitude can be the key to propelling Fife Flyers back up the Elite League table.
A run of just two victories in 12 matches has resulted in the Kirkcaldy side slipping down to ninth place in the standings and out of the play-off positions.
Dutiaume addressed the players last week over the need to remain positive on the bench and, after significantly improved performances in narrow defeats to Glasgow Clan and Cardiff Devils, has urged his players to keep their spirits high for the remainder of the season.
“A big part of my recent tact with these guys is to speak to them about their body language and how they carry themselves,” he said.
“It’s the same as me. My body language on the bench can project many things. Sometimes it’s read correctly, sometimes it’s read totally wrong.
“So we’ve talked about that and I thought the body language at the weekend during both games was very positive.
“We went down a goal late against Glasgow and usually we’d be sitting there thinking, ‘how are we going to pull this back?’ whereas the coaching staff tried to keep their spirits neutral and then we get that moment late on where we score with the goaltender pulled.
“That doesn’t always work, of course, but you can see the players’ reaction and they’re happy.
“We lost the shootout, but they competed. Once it goes to a toss up, it can be anybody’s game. But the fact they got near to the finish line was very positive.
“Then we went to the team in first place in the league and the pace was significantly quicker.
“We lost Paul Crowder to injury, Schaber’s not been at 100 per cent and a few of our defencemen are ailing.
“We went quickly down 2-0 although we were playing well, but they hung in there right to the end. It shows these guys have it in them, they just have to believe in themselves.”
Dutiaume also explained the tactical tweaks made last weekend in an attempt to address the team’s recent slump in form.
“Systems are important and it’s become such a technical game, so we did make a couple of adjustments for the weekend there,” he said.
“We played a more dedicated support to our defence. Everybody says if a goal is scored the defence is rubbish, but a lot of times the breakdown happens at turnover at the offensive blue line, so we talked about smart chips, not just giving the puck away.
“If you just dump it in randomly, that’s just dumping and chasing the puck.
“We’ve talked to our players about that multiple times. You have to just chip in behind a guy and fight through that interference or get right deep into our corners because they’re slow here. That’s where you’ve got a better chance of recovering the puck.
“There are slight margins about why decisions are made and we made a key switch on our penalty kill in Cardiff.
“We’ve been very disappointed with that which has been exceptional over the years.
“We killed off all the penalties in Cardiff which is a very difficult thing to do.
“The game adapts and we’ve been forced to make some changes.
“Our powerplay is still struggling though on Saturday night we had almost complete zone time for lots of powerplay and had some great shots – they just weren’t going into the net.
“But I’ve seen times when our powerplay has been stagnant and pedestrian. You feel like you have so much time out on that big rink that you can get lost out on the perimeter instead of penetrating and getting into the mixer.
“We practice our powerplay now in a confined space, which forces them to move the puck quicker.
“You’re not reinventing the wheel but you have to have the guys buying in and I thought Saturday night was a prime example that they can compete. But the want and desire has to be there as well.”
Dutiaume admitted he remains hopeful of bringing an additional import into the line-up despite missing out on Elgin Pearce after Belfast Giants trumped Flyers’ offer following his release from Dundee Stars.
“Will I get one? I’ve been looking but the answer is I don’t know,” he admitted.
Flyers will travel to Coventry Blaze on Saturday before looking to end a run of six straight home defeats when Manchester Storm –the side directly above them in the table – visit Fife Ice Arena on Sunday.
“We’re looking for a big home win and, sometimes, the more you will it, rather than just going out and preparing the same, it puts more pressure on everybody,” Dutiaume said.
“So you have to recognise it is a pressure sport and you have to be willing to deal with that.”
Flyers are awaiting results on a scan on an injury suffered by Paul Crowder during the defeat to Cardiff Devils on Sunday before determining whether he will be available for the upcoming weekend.