Phantoms still searching for defensive cover

James Hutchinson is a fitness doubt for Phantoms this weekend. Photo: Alan Storer.

James Hutchinson is a fitness doubt for Phantoms this weekend. Photo: Alan Storer.

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Peterborough Phantoms player-coach Slava Koulikov insists he is yet to settle on a replacement for axed import Edgars Apelis.

The city club have a defensive void after terminating the contract of the Latvian earlier this week.

But Koulikov quickly quashed suggestions that younger sibling Vitali, who currently plays in Spain, is on his radar.

Koulikov admitted during the summer he was exploring the possibility of bringing his brother to Planet Ice, but no move ever came to fruition.

He also scoffed at rumours linking the club with a swoop for Ukranian international defenceman Nikolai Ladygin who has previous British experience with Elite League side Hull.

Koulikov said: “Neither of those names are in the equation, that’s for sure.

“We’re still in the process of working out what will be best for the team.

“Unfortunately for Edgars, he was the guy who we feel needs to make way for us to become stronger.”

Apelis is due to return to Latvia early next week, but it is understood he will take no part in the club’s two games this weekend – a crucial English Premier League trip to Basingstoke tomorrow (January 10) and a home English Challenge Cup clash against Solway Sharks on Sunday.

Phantoms also have a concern over the fitness of fellow defenceman James Hutchinson who injured a knee towards the end of their fine victory away to English Premier League leaders Telford last Sunday (January 4).

Koulikov added: “One or two guys are not 100 per cent and that can happen at this stage of the season.

“We are very conscious of the fact we need to look after them, but we only have one league game this weekend and that will help us in that respect.

“We will again use plenty of youngsters on Sunday and in the two cup games the following weekend as well.

“But right now it is all about focusing on Basingstoke and trying to pick up another good result.

“It was great to start the year with a four-point weekend and hopefully we can build on that.”