CAPTAIn Kurtis Dulle is happy to play through the pain barrier to help Hull Stingrays strengthen their claim for an Elite League play-off spot.
The 32-year-old defenceman has missed the last three games after sustaining an ankle injury and is set to return in Saturday night’s visit to Braehead Clan as Sylvain Cloutier’s team look to put some welcome distance between themselves and the bottom two clubs, Dundee Stars and Fife Flyers.
The chances of Stingrays making the post-season remain strong - partly due to the struggles of their two Scottish rivals - but they need to build some momentum by improving their win ratio in their last 23 games of the season.
Hull go into the Braehead Arena looking to end a run of six away defeats, before returning home in the early hours of Sunday morning to prepare for the visit of Drew Bannister’s team in a weekend double header.
The club are still looking to replace departed defenceman Josh Mizerek, who was jettisoned in the middle of December, with Dulle’s ill-timed injury adding to the team’s recent defensive fragility, something which has increased the pressure on netminder Christian Boucher. Monday’s 5-0 defeat at Nottingham Panthers saw Hull’s first-choice goalie face 62 shots, with his goal being peppered by an average of just under 55 shots in the last four games.
Understandable frustration has crept in for Dulle on the sidelines in recent days and, after consulting with player-coach Cloutier, he will return to the ice in Glasgow as the Yorkshire club look to square the series between the two sides.
Dulle’s 2011-12 ‘debut’ for Hull was in a 9-4 victory over Braehead back in October, but Bannister’s players have improved since and have won the two subsequent meetings.
“We’re short on bodies back there and I’m happy to step back into the line-up, because we really need to try and get some points on the board,” said Dulle.
“I want to play, I’m frustrated on the sidelines so I’ve spoke with Clouts and we’re going to see how it goes in Braehead and take it from there - hopefully I can play both games.
“I’m the captain and I want to be out there helping my team.
“There’s definitely no room for error as far as we’re concerned now. We’re in a situation where we have Dundee and Fife right behind us and we can see them in the rear-view mirror.
“But that should also act as a motivator as we know we can’t just show up and go through the motions every night. And we’ve got Clouts pushing us all the time to make sure that doesn’t happen, so every game from now on counts.”
Cloutier said he will be delighted to see Dulle back out on the ice.
“It will be good to have him back, he is our captain, he is a leader and we have missed him,” he said.
“He is a big part of our team and it means we will have six defenceman this weekend. That is a huge bonus for us as we have only had two and sometimes one import defenceman in the last couple of games.”
For tickets to watch Hull take on Braehead Clan at Hull Arena on Sunday night (6pm) call the Box Office on 01482 325252.