Phantoms have been dealt a major injury blow ahead of their NIHL Division One South play-off challenge.
Lithuanian international Darius Pliskauskas has been ruled out of the quarter-final showdown against Milton Keynes this weekend. Phantoms entertain Thunder in the opening leg on Saturday (7pm) ahead of a Sunday return clash (6.45pm).
Pliskauskas, the club’s top points-scorer across all competitions this season, is suffering with what head coach Slava Koulikov described as a ‘lower body injury’.
The import forward limped out of the closing stages of the final league game against Streatham last Saturday after taking an awkward fall.
“Darius is out of this weekend,” said Koulikov. “It’s obviously a massive disappointment for us to be without our top points-scorer and a top player in the team.
“But we have a good roster and I’m sure that other guys will step up.”
But Koulikov has stressed that Thunder, who finished 31 points adrift of runners-up Phantoms, must be treated with maximum respect. They did record a surprise triumph at Planet Ice on penalties in a November league fixture.
He added: “We are favourites but we cannot take them lightly and we all remember that they took a point from us in the league.
“They are a good team, a fast team and they have a goalie who always seems to play well against us.
“We all know that anything can happen in play-off hockey. It is the last chance to win something, but it can be gone in the space of 48 hours.
“Every shift counts, every period counts and we definitely need the fans to come and fill the place.”