Snake-bit? Jinxed? Is there a black cloud hanging over coach Scott Hillman's Missouri Mavericks?

He doesn’t know why his team has been hit by so many injuries this season, but he does know that he will have 15 healthy skaters for tonight’s 7:35 contest at Tulsa, where he hopes his team can begin a four-point weekend it desperately needs.

The Mavericks will be without defenseman Dave Pszenyczny, who will be sitting out the second game of this three-game suspension, and newest defenseman Evan Zych, who was injured in practice Thursday morning and had to be taken the Centerpoint Medical Center emergency room after his third shift.

“We keep losing defensemen,” Hillman said. “Evan should be fine – it was a lower body injury – but right now it looks like we will have 15 skaters to take to Tulsa on Friday. With the suspensions, injuries and illness the boys have had to step it up this season.”

Pszenyczny will have missed nine games to suspension, Colt King has missed 10 and Matt Stephenson missed one, totaling 20 games amongst the three.

“They miss all those games, then you have all the players who have played out of position and done such a great job like Voss (Evan Vossen) and Sebbie (team captain Sebastien Thinel, who made his first CHL start on defense last week).”

Rapid City and Allen are tied for first place with 50 points, and the 22-11-2 Mavericks sit alone in third with 46 followed closely by Denver (45) and the expansion Brampton Beast (43), who recently swept two games at the Independence Events Center. The top four teams in the CHL have home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

“We've been playing right at .500 hockey for too long, at this point of the season,” Hillman said. “We're more games above .500 than we have been at just about any point in the season, but we need to start playing consistently better hockey – and that's what we have been working on this week.”

The Mavericks have been paying attention to the little nuances and details in practice this week.

“We've been real focused this week on our system,” the coach explained, “the small areas of the game that can make such a big difference in the outcome. It's been a good week of practice, and you can sense that everyone is excited about this weekend.”

After the game in Tulsa tonight, the two teams pack their gear and head back to the Independence Events Center for a 7:05 p.m. contest Saturday.

“The standings are so tight right now, you don't really pay any attention to who anyone else is playing, you just have to take care of your business,” Hillman said. “Our last win was against Tulsa, and they are such an explosive team.

“We need four points this weekend, because it's getting to the point where every game, every point is so important.”