Thompson could give boost to former captain Cloutier

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SYLVAIN Cloutier is hoping his former coach does him a favour this weekend to help Hull Stingrays’ push for the Elite League play-offs.

The East Yorkshire club head into the weekend five points adrift of the play-off places in the overall standings, as well as being three points off the lead in the Gardiner Conference - the winner of which automatically qualifies for the post-season.

Saturday night sees Cloutier’s team head to Fife Flyers, a conference rival who are currently in eighth spot, in what the Hull player-coach has declared a must-win game.

The intensity doesn’t stop there, though, with another conference rival, Braehead Clan, due at Hull Arena on Sunday night. Lose both and, with only eight games remaining, it would be hard to imagine Hull extending their campaign beyond the end of the regular season on March 24.

Favourable results elsewhere are likely to be required by Hull to make the play-offs, and while Cloutier’s team will strive to take care of matters that are in their control, they could also be forgiven for having one eye elsewhere north of the Scottish border where Coventry Blaze are spending the weekend.

Wins for Paul Thompson’s team in Edinburgh on Saturday and Fife 24 hours later, adding to their 5-4 overtime triumph at Braehead on Friday night would - if Hull pick up points themselves - provide a significant boost for the Stingrays, a fact not lost on Cloutier.

“I’ll probably be texting Thommo on the way up to Scotland just to remind him,” joked Cloutier, who won two league titles in as many years at the Skydome Arena under Thompson - the second as captain - after the former GB head coach brought him to the UK back in 2006.

“It would obviously be great for us if Coventry won all their games in Scotland. But we’ve got to make sure we take care of our own end - particularly in Fife, that is a huge, must-win game for us.

“Basically it’s a Game 7 on Saturday and a Game 7 on Sunday - we need everybody to step up to the plate and perform like we know we can do.

“On our day we can play with any team in this league. It doesn’t feel like we’ve had a bad season, if I’m honest. Yet, we find ourselves at the bottom of the overall standings.”

Cloutier admits that his team’s inability to clinch games in shoot-outs this season - Hull have come off second-best in all eight they have taken part in - could be what ultimately denies them a place in the play-offs.

“One of the most frustrating things for me this year has been the lack of success in shoot-outs,” he added. “Even if only some of them had gone our way we’d be in a much healthier position than we are.

“But I believe we’ve got time - in both the league and the conference - to get the wins we need to make the play-offs.”