BLACKBURN Hawks coach Steve Duncombe is hoping some of his squad players can step up to the mark against Hull Pirates this weekend and earn a place in the semi-finals of the NIHL Cup.

Hawks are missing Kieran Brown and Matt Viney while Duncombe himself is also unavailable, and with doubts surrounding the fitness of other players the Blackburn chief admits his side is down to the bare bones for the two-legged last eight tie.

But he believes the absentees offer a chance for others to grasp and he cites the example of James Riddoch as one to follow.

"We are thin on the ground at the moment," said Duncombe. "I'm hoping that people can step up and play well, James Riddoch did that in the games over Christmas where we were in a similar situation and I was really pleased with how he player and hopefully we can get players doing that again."

Hawks enter the game on the back of successive league losses which have left them fifth in the table, five points behind their weekend opponents.

But Duncombe's side did beat the Pirates in the league on home ice earlier this season and the Hawks coach is hoping for a repeat performance as he chases down some silverware.

"They are a very good side, they've been on a great run and are probably better than when we played them earlier in the season," Duncombe added. "They have a strong squad and have brought in one or two players who have made a real difference.

"It will be a really tough game but we beat them in the league and there is no reason why we can't do that again.

"It would be nice to get a good lead at home and perhaps something like the 6-3 result we got in the league. That gives us every chance of going through."

The two fixtures were initially supposed to be league games but have been switched to enable the cup clashes to be fitted into the congested calendar and enable the semi-finals and final to be played as soon as possible.

Today's first leg is a 5.45pm start while the second leg in Hull gets underway at 5.30pm. If the scores are level the tie will go into overtime and then penalty shots if required,