Worst case scenario: season in peril for injured Sheffield Steelers duo
Paul Thompson is having to plot his Play Off strategy not knowing whether two of his top imports will play any part in the end-of-season tournament.
Mike Ratchuk and Yared Hagos both have serious injuries - the nature of which are not being publicly revealed - and that could mean they will not ice again in the 2016-17 campaign.
“Yared is very effective on our penalty kill and shores up our fourth line, giving us the depth we need.
“While Mike - when he’s on his game - can do things that no other player in the league can do” said the coach.
“Obviously it is a big blow when they are not fit to play, and we don’t know at this stage what their availability will be, if at all.
“But we can only look at what is in front of us and get on with it.”
Thompson believes there can be a positive psychological spin-off from losing the chance of retaining the league title, for a third year running.
Cardiff beat them 6-2 at Sheffield Arena on Saturday to end that aspiration.
“I hope that what happened has burn each and every one of us” he said.
“We should want and experience that pain and then use it to fires us up.
“We started the season early (two friendlies and Champions Hockey League fixtures starting mid August) and we have played an awful lot of hockey. In the last few weeks we have put in some great performances and we need to take those positives into the Play Offs.
“Players like Robert Dowd and Davey Phillips have been very impressive.
“I double-shifted Dowdy on the second and fourth lines last weekend because of the outstanding form he has been in. Davey was hitting everything that moved against Cardiff, he was still throwing the body in the last few minutes.
“I am proud of the team and want to see us come out fighting for the last two League games of the season (Nottingham Panthers, home, Friday and Coventry Blaze away, Sunday.”)
Steelers need some rest after their hectic run of matches, then they have to develop some momentum and confidence after losing four of their last seven games.