Replacing "The Hammer'' isn't as easy as taking a trip to the hardware store.

Departed tough guy Jonathan "The Hammer'' Tremblay has left a void on the Quad-City Mallards roster that won't easily be filled, coach Frank Anzalone said Tuesday.

"It has to be available,'' he said of Tremblay's unique skills as slugging enforcer. "Because it is not something everybody is good at.

"Yeah, it is an important part of our team and it's unfortunate, the timing. My job is to keep my eyes and ears open keep turning pages to see what's out there.''

A tearful Tremblay came to Anzalone just hours before the team departed last Friday for Flint, Mich., where the Mallards opened the season on Saturday with a 3-1 win.

"There were issues with his fiancee that couldn't be fixed from a distance,'' said the coach. "He felt he needed to be there to support her.''

Anzalone placed the big forward from Farquier, Quebec on the 45-day inactive list in a situation that is reminscent of the abrupt departure of Steve "Big Diesel'' MacIntyre from the Mallards in 2006.

MacIntyre returned later that season and now is in his second NHL season with the Edmonton Oilers.

Anzalone said he and Tremblay will talk again, but he said the player's return is uncertain.

"He could come back and he might not,'' said the coach. "It sounded like there were issues that might keep him away awhile.''

So the coach will look for a fighting complement to hulking defenseman Jason Goulet, a necessity in the rough and tumble International Hockey League.

"I don't think it's going to happen this week because I haven't run into anyone yet,'' Anzaline said. "I'm calling people and asking.''

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Anzalone also is talking to a couple of big-ticket skill players, but couldn't be certain Tuesday those efforts would succeed.

"If you can improve your team, you have to,'' he said, but he added, "Those players in the top 10 percent have some choices because there are maybe 10 teams that need help.''

The coach said his Mallards may not be one of those teams in need. He was pleased with his club's performance and, particularly, its pace in Flint.

"I'm not saying we need help but obviously you always want to keep your eyes open,'' he said.