By Alex Briggs
Two vital matches for the Sheffield Steelers against the Nottingham Panthers and Fife Flyers could make or break their title aspirations.
For the first time since being dumped out of the Challenge Cup, Nottingham return to the arena looking for revenge.
Sheffield were aided by the Panthers’ midweek dismantling of the first-placed Cardiff Devils in a game that gave just a little light for the chasing sides.
Sheffield will wait to see whether Mike Ratchuk and Andreas Valdix will be fit enough after missing Wednesday night’s game against Edinburgh.
Nottingham will be without former NHL player Jason Williams, who has now been ruled out for the rest of the year, but forward Deivids Sarkanis should make his Panthers-Steelers debut.
Paul Thompson was delighted with how recent signing Rod Sarich slotted straight into Wednesday’s line-up, saying: “We’ve worked him hard over the last 8/9 days to get him back and get the rust off, so this was probably the perfect game.”
A long trip to Fife follows on Sunday as the Flyers, who are sitting sixth in the table, could all but pencil in their dates for the play-offs with two points.
A positive season thus far for the Scottish outfit has demonstrated just how good a well-oiled Fife team can be under the stewardship of Todd Dutiaume.
Ric Jackman, Shane Owen and Ryan Dingle have been stellar players all season long, acting as the spine of the side.
Injuries shouldn’t hamper the fixture but with a big clash against the Belfast Giants on the previous night, it will be inevitable to see a few bruised bodies lacing up.
So far this season Sheffield have dominated the fixtures between the teams, having won all three in comfortable fashion.