Nottingham Panthers’ Head Coach Corey Neilson wants his team to finish the regular season with a flourish by throwing a spanner in the works for Sheffield Steelers’ Elite League title hopes.
Panthers travel to the Steelers on Saturday knowing a victory could open the door for Cardiff Devils to snatch the prize and Neilson thinks his team can defeat their big rivals.
“We are only looking at Saturday right now – Saturday is very important to us,” he told the Nottingham Post.
“They’re a team we feel we can beat. We beat them 10-0 in two Challenge Cup games and dominated them all over the ice.
“I’ve watched the video of the most recent game here and we were, for the most part, the better team. We gave up a weak goal and then didn’t take our chances.
“It’s always a 50/50 game with them. We’ve had some good battles. They’re a team, through the experience of being a part of the Nottingham-Sheffield rivalry, we love to hate. They feel the same.
“We certainly want to make it ever so tough for them.”
Since losing out to the Steelers on home ice, the Panthers have bounced back with victories against Fife Flyers and Coventry Blaze leaving Neilson keen to keep the momentum going with the play-offs on the horizon.
“We’ve had two good wins – Fife’s playing some good hockey, as are Coventry,” added Neilson.
“Going into play-offs we’re playing well – it’s unfortunate that the pivotal game against Sheffield we didn’t win.
“We felt like after the Challenge Cup win we were in a position to press on. That is life – you have to pick yourself up and move on.”
Drew Fisher hopes Coventry will use this weekend’s games against Dundee Stars and Manchester Storm to gain some momentum going into the play-offs.
Blaze head into their final two fixtures on the back of successive defeats against the Steelers and Panthers.
Fisher commented: “We are on a two-game skid, but before that we had a five-game winning streak. It is important to have short memories and not get too high or too low.
“We know what we are capable of. We have done some good things, but in the last two games we did not do enough of the little things to be successful in play-off hockey.
“We will need to be a little better this weekend to gain some momentum. We want to put in two good performances and also try to finish as high as we can.
“It does not matter who you play in the play-offs, we want to go in with a confident mindset and I am sure the top seeds will be dreading playing us in the first round.”
Belfast Giants v Fife Flyers
Braehead Clan v Edinburgh Capitals
Dundee Stars v Coventry Blaze
Manchester Storm v Cardiff Devils
Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers
Cardiff Devils v Nottingham Panthers
Coventry Blaze v Manchester Storm
Edinburgh Capitals v Braehead Clan
Fife Flyers v Sheffield Steelers
(Image permission: Karl Denham)