BLACKBURN Hawks have received a fresh injury blow as in-form D-man Chris Butler is set for a month on the sidelines.
Butler has been one of the Hawks’ most impressive performers since his return to the club in November.
But he is unlikely to play again this month after breaking his knuckles.
Jared Owen has also lost the services of forward Ric Hughes to a knee injury while captain Chris Arnone and – in particular – Reece Cairney-Witter are doubtful for Sunday’s visit of Whitley Warriors to the Blackburn Ice Arena (5.45pm).
But the Hawks coach is confident his in-form side, who have won 11 of their last 12 matches in all competitions, have the strength in depth to cope.
Owen said: “It’s a blow to lose Chris. He’s been one of stand-out performers since he returned to the team.
“The deadline for new players has passed but I still believe we have enough within the group to cope.
“Tom King came back last week and we have got three good lines of defenders and three good lines of forwards so I think we will be fine.”
Sunday’s hard-fought 7-4 success over sixth-placed Sheffield Spartans – secured by goals from Ivo Dimitrijevs, Arnone, Jon Adams, Adam Brittle, Aaron Davies, Daniel Mackriel and Scott Robson – hauled the Hawks above Billingham Stars and up to second in the NIHL Moralee Conference.
A 10th straight home victory would move the Hawks seven points clear of the fifth-placed Warriors and go a long way to securing their place in the play-offs.
“It should be a really exciting game,” said Owen, who led the Hawks to play-off glory last season.
“They will be up for revenge after we beat them 5-0 at our place but we will be after it too after they came from three goals down to win 4-3 at their place with 10 seconds left to play.”
Owen added: “The fans have played a big part in us winning nine games on the run at home.
“We’ve always a good crowd who are knowledgeable about the sport but in the last few weeks the support has really gone up a level.
“They are making a lot of noise and it is making a big difference.
Blackburn Eagles, meanwhile, return to NIHL Laidler Conference combat at Widnes Wild on Sunday (6.15pm).