BASINGSTOKE Bison player/coach Doug Sheppard says that this weekend could be crucial in deciding whether the Herd hang on to second place in the English Premier League.
The Bison host local rivals the Slough Jets at the Basingstoke Arena on Saturday (face-off 6.30pm), before travelling to face the Manchester Phoenix, their main rivals for second spot, the following day (face-off 5.30pm).
Sheppard’s men go into the weekend five points clear of the Phoenix, who are currently third – and the Bison boss is determined his will side hang on to second place.
“It’s a big weekend and could be crucial when it comes to the final standings,” he said. “We definitely want to be the second seed for the play-offs so it would be nice to pick up four points this weekend.
“Sunday’s game is a four-point game really. Manchester is never an easy place to go to but we have had some success against the Phoenix this season and hopefully that can continue.”
The Bison go into this weekend having lost their last four games, and five of their last six league games, a run that has a lot to do with their injury problems.
Jacob Corson-Heron is likely to remain on the sidelines for the rest of the season, while Kurt Reynolds and Andy Melachrino, who were big players for the Herd earlier in the season, have been out for several weeks.
It is hoped that both will return to the line-up in time for the play-offs, but the Bison will have to do without them this weekend.
To make matters worse, it is unlikely that either forward Nicky Watt or defenceman Alex Symonds will feature this weekend after picking up knocks in the 3-0 defeat to the Sheffield Steeldogs last week.
Coventry youngster Matt Selby could return after injury, but if not, Sheppard will be left with just three defencemen and nine forwards, including youngsters Cameron Wynn and Stuart Mogg.
“We are going to be pretty short defensively this week,” Sheppard said. “It looks like Greg Chambers, Joe Greener or both are going to have to help out in defence.
“We have to get all of our guys back as soon as possible to make sure we are ready for the play-offs, but we have got to start playing better. We need to take things into our own hands and help ourselves.”
The Bison will be on a revenge mission on Saturday, looking to get some payback after Slough knocked them out of the EPL Cup on penalty-shots last week.
Sheppard said: “Slough have just knocked us out in the semi-finals of the cup and that is fresh in our minds but we just need to worry about playing good hockey.”
Log on to basingstokegazette.co.uk/sport for live updates from the Basingstoke Arena on Saturday night.