Dulle: Until the deadline, your job is never safe
CAPTAIN Kurtis Dulle says repeated talk of team changes is "just a fact of life" for ice hockey players.
Defenceman Tomas Valecko was the first victim of the Rapid Solicitors Stingrays struggles in October, being replaced by Martin Ondrej.
Last week Dmitri Rodin was signed to take the club's import roster to 13, two more than can play in any one match.
Canadian Greg Blais is safe, given he deputises when starting keeper Ben Bowns is away on GB duty.
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However, given the club's tight finances, it is likely the 37-year-old Estonian's arrival will signal the departure of a team-mate.
With Sylvain Cloutier freely admitting he's in the market for a forward, a second P45 could be brandished ahead of the January 31 transfer deadline.
At 33, Canadian Dulle says he has learned to live with the pressure of never knowing what's round the corner.
He said: "It's one of those things, it's good and bad.
"It's good in the sense that when there's competition guys have to pick their game up, they can't afford to get complacent and take a step back.
"But that's hockey, that's sport, your job is never safe at any time until after the deadline.
"For me, when any player is coming in, whether 18 or 38, I have to make sure I have secured my spot.
"If someone comes in that's better, that's when you know it's your time to walk away.
"Right now I am fighting to make sure I am one of the top guys.
"Dmitri is an all-round guy that we need.
"He'll definitely help all of us, from defence to forwards, so it's a good addition.
"If more guys come in – and I am out of the loop right now so I don't know – hopefully it will be someone who will improve us."
Cloutier's planned team tinkering takes place as Stingrays sit 10th and bottom of the Elite League.
To gain any place in the play-offs they must finish in the top eight.
Their best route to the play-off semi-finals is to win their Gardiner Conference so they are second seeds.
Alternatively, they need to finish seventh in the overall Elite League standings to ensure they meet that second-seeded team.
Tomorrow they host ninth-placed Edinburgh – whom they beat 1-0 at Hull Arena just after Christmas – and on Sunday they travel to face top-five side Coventry.
Dulle said: "It was very close last time against Edinburgh, and because we're at home we must be ready to go.
"I believe we've got an opportunity to do something against Coventry as well, so it's time to shine, it's a big weekend for us."
Although bottom, Stingrays' form has picked up in recent weeks, running all their top-five opponents close, without managing to close out games.
However, they have been buoyed by last Saturday's 3-2 win in Cardiff, which was followed by Sunday's 3-1 defeat to South Yorkshire rivals Sheffield.
He said: "We got the two points last weekend, and played well, but unfortunately we are generally having trouble getting wins against the top teams.
"The likes of Fife are stealing points against the Erhardt Conference sides, so we still need a couple more wins out of those top teams.
"It's January, we're over half way through the season, so our games are starting to count more than ever."