SYLVAIN Cloutier hopes his Hull Stingrays team will have a clearer picture of where their play-off ambitions lie by the end of January.
The Yorkshire club currently sit bottom of the Elite League table but, of more importance is the team’s status in the Gardiner Conference, which currently sees them in fourth with only seven points separating all five teams.
Whoever wins the conference is likely to be the second seed for the end-of-season play-offs, increasing the chances of a run to the final four weekend in Nottingham – something Hull enjoyed last season after knocking out Sheffield Steelers.
Six of Hull’s next seven games come against conference opposition, beginning with tonight’s visit from Edinburgh Capitals (6.30pm). And although a change or two to the roster may still occur before the January 31 trade deadline, Hull player-coach Cloutier believes he has a more talented group of players than last time around that can secure a place in the post-season.
“As a group, we certainly believe that we can make the play-offs, ideally by winning our own conference,” said Cloutier.
“I’ve felt from the start that we could have a good go at winning the conference and that is still very much in our hands. We need to repeat the performance we gave against Edinburgh at our place last time when we won 1-0. If we do that, we should be fine.”
Hull follow up tonight’s home encounter with a trip to Coventry Blaze tomorrow night.
Sheffield Steelers will continue with their mission of closing the nine-point gap on leaders Nottingham Panthers by taking on two Scottish rivals, starting with tonight’s trip to Fife Flyers.
Ryan Finnerty’s team are likely to be better prepared than they were for their last visit in October, when they slipped to a shock 4-2 defeat.
Flyers defenceman Jeff Caister is missing for the home side after incurring an automatic one-game ban for receiving three 10-minute misconducts for abuse of official this season.
Steelers will head back home in the early hours of Sunday morning to prepare for the visit from Braehead Clan at the Motorpoint Arena (5pm).