Vandermeer no stranger to helping up front
As one of their veteran presences on the blueline, seeing Jim Vandermeer taking face-offs last weekend was something of a surprise to Belfast Giants fans.
Pressed back into action after injury in the Scottish triple-header, from which the Giants took the full haul of six points to maintain their two-point lead at the top of the Elite League table, Vandermeer found himself in a slightly less familiar position due to injuries elsewhere.
With Francis Beauvillier, Jonathan Ferland and Colin Shields all sidelined, and the defensive corps well stocked, the 38-year old found himself among the forward lines, where he hadn't been since his NHL days.
"My first year of junior hockey I played forward, and throughout my NHL career I'd play forward every now and again as well, so I'm not a stranger to playing up front," Canadian defenceman Vandermeer revealed.
"We needed another guy to eat some minutes and I'd done it before, so that meant it was me!"
While being out of the line-up meant Belfast lost a lot of experience on their back end, and a classy operator from defence too, the injury did have its upside.
Now in a role as player-assistant coach to Adam Keefe, Vandermeer was able to survey games from the bench, which has, in turn, allowed him to add input to weekly practices.
"Watching the game from up top or on the bench definitely gives you another perspective," says the Alberta native.
"As any hockey guy will tell you, it seems so easy and slow from up top but when you're actually on the ice it's a lot faster!
"It gives you different angles and you see stuff you wouldn't notice on the ice, so I think if you're paying attention it gives you an advantage when you come back."
This weekend the Giants will take any advantage they can get as they face their toughest of their 16-game road trip against the Nottingham Panthers tonight (7pm) before travelling for the first time this season to defending champions Cardiff Devils tomorrow (6pm).
Two wins would have the Giants in an extremely enviable position at the top of the table and, while all the attention will be on the clash at Ice Arena Wales, Vandermeer knows better than to look past the Panthers.
"It's a huge weekend, it's probably the top three teams playing," believes Vandermeer. "This week in practice we're getting everybody ready to go but we can't look too far ahead. Start with one game and then, once that's over, move onto the next."