BRAEHEAD Clan gaffer Drew Bannister has urged his players to step up to the mark not once, but twice, this weekend.
Mid-table Clan host bottom-dogs Fife Flyers at Braehead tonight, with a revised face-off time of 6.30pm, before heading for Cardiff 24 hours later.
Points might not necessarily mean prizes for the ice hockey stars but back-to-back wins could potentially push the talented Clansmen up to fourth in the Elite League standings.
Bannister told Express Sports: “Fife may be propping up the table at the moment but rest assured we are NOT in for an easy ride.
“We beat them quite convincingly earlier in the season but since then they have strengthened up their team no end.
“They have added depth to their squad, as well as better players, so we know we are in for a battle.
“That said, we have been performing really well at home recently and I will urge my players to keep that going.”
Bannister has revealed, though, that the Clan look like being without influential player, Sam Zajac, for both of this weekend’s matches.
He explained: “Sam was in the wars last weekend and ended up with a nasty knock on the head – and I wasn’t in the slightest bit happy about that.
“He hasn’t trained all week and I would have to rate him in the ‘extremely doubtful’ category for both matches.
“There is no way we would want to risk losing a player of Sam’s quality for longer so we won’t take any chances with him.
“Injuries happen but this incident took place during a penalty call and Sam was struck in the head.
“The authorities looked at the incident again this week and decided not to ban the aggressor. I reckon it definitely warranted a suspension but the review panel thought otherwise.
“I believe it’s wrong but what more can we do?
“We have to take it on the chin and move on – there’s nothing else for it.”
So, the Clan move on to Cardiff tomorrow night, and a meeting with the Devils, who sit directly above Braehead in the league table.
Bannister knows that an away win would automatically see his side leapfrog the hosts.
But he was quick to point out that the small rink at Cardiff will make life difficult for the visitors.
He said: “The small rink definitely suits the home team, that’s not in doubt.
“It’s also a long and arduous eight-hour bus journey to South Wales and that can have a detrimental effect on the players, so it’s a big ask all round.
“We need to improve our form on the road though, so the players will be up for the fight, of that you can be sure.
“We haven’t exactly covered ourselves in glory on our travels so that has to change.”
Clan fans will now have an extra Christmas treat to look forward to after bosses arranged a Boxing Day match with Belfast Giants.
Face-off for this match against the current league leaders at Braehead ice has been set at 6pm.