The Wichita Thunder’s fight to make the 2015 Kelly Cup Playoffs took a big hit Tuesday, as the team announced that forward Nikita Kashirsky will miss the rest of the season due to injury.

The injury came on this play in Sunday’s game against Tulsa:

Tulsa’s Kyle Bochek was not penalized for the incident.

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The injury to Kashirsky comes at a very bad time for the team, who sit five points out of a playoff position with five games to play — including two more against the Tulsa Oilers. Forward Ian Duval has been out of the Thunder with an injury since March 8, and Kenton Miller rejoined the team last week after close to a month due to a pair of broken fingers.

Kashirsky’s absence from the lineup means that Ian Lowe and Todd Hosmer will have a new linemate, possibly Kenton Miller or Justin Bernhardt. The move could serve to spark Lowe, who is on a 5-game scoreless drought and has 7 points (1G, 6A) in 17 games this month.

From the outside, it would appear the combination of injuries and brutal scheduling has caught up with the team.

“You don’t want to use that as a crutch and you don’t want that around,” Thunder Head Coach Kevin McClelland told the Wichita Eagle. “March was a real tough month, obviously, and the last two weekends we’ve played four (games) in five nights both weekends. We just finished eight (games) in 12 (nights) and obviously guys are going to be tired.”

The benefit of playing the hellacious schedule last month is that the Thunder will be able to play their final five games at home.

If Wichita has designs on qualifying for the Kelly Cup Playoffs, they likely need to run the table. That feat begins tonight, when the Allen Americans pay a visit to Intrust Bank Arena.

At home this season, Wichita is 14-14-0-3 and the longest winning streak they have had at home is four games (November 16-29, 2014.)

Will we see a frantic last-ditch effort or will this Thunder team start shining their golf clubs? Only time will tell.

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