Mathieu Roy has returned home to Canada after a personal tragedy involving the death of a close friend.
The Sheffield Steelers forward asked for a week of absence after being his pal died in what appears to have been an accident in the snow.
Steelers owner Tony Smith showed compassion to let him go at the business end of the season - and his team will now have to manage without him at a time they have lost another forward Andreas Jamtin (paternity) and still have no firm decision on whether John Armstrong will re-appear from his long-standing finger injury.
Coach Paul Thompson said: “Mathieu heard the tragic news when he switched his phone on after our win in Cardiff.
“He was in bits. We understand, totally, his need to go home and are thoughts are with him. His buddy was like a brother to him; they grew up together.
“As for John, he looked good in practice but we’ll have to wait and see.”
The club needs to win their last three League matches (Fife Flyers, away, Wednesday, Edinburgh Capitals, home, Saturday, and Manchester Storm, away Sunday) to finish the season with the highest place possible.
Roy might not have had his best Steelers season, but he has scored 48 points in 51 games (22+26.)
He is Steelers’ 16th top scorer in the club’s history and is four goals off scoring 150.
Sheffield have their penultimate League away game of the season at Fife Flyers tonight.
Todd Dutiaume’s side lead the South Yorkshire visitors in this season’s head to head with two wins to the Steelers one.
Both teams will be keen to win with the seeding of the play-offs yet to be finalised.