Elite League weekend preview

Sheffield Steelers and Nottingham Panthers meet for a double Christmas cracker this weekend, with both teams desperate to keep the pressure on at the top of the Elite League.

Nottingham currently lie second in the table, three points behind leaders Cardiff Devils and one ahead of Sheffield.

The two teams clash in Yorkshire on Saturday, before facing off again in Nottingham the following day, and Steelers’ defenseman Cullen Eddy has no doubt what his team need to do if they are to secure victory.

“Against teams like Nottingham and Cardiff you have to stick together and that is what we are going to do,” said Eddy.

“We have to play our team game against them. Up and down the ice, fast pace lots off communication and guys in front of the net.

“We will need a ton of shots on the Nottingham netminder, crash to the paint and get into those areas where we can score.”

Sheffield go into the game on the back of a disappointing 3-2 home defeat against Coventry Blaze, but Eddy says he is confident the team will respond positively.

“Coventry was a tough loss – coming off a five game winning streak, these are the games you look back on and think you’d wish you’d had those points,” he said.

“Unfortunately we had some mistakes and gave up goals but we will bounce back. We have two games after Christmas against league competitors and I think we are going to do just fine in them.

“It isn’t a case of picking ourselves up – we’ve just got 10 out of 12 points, that’s a pretty good stretch of games.”

Cam Janssen is eagerly anticipating facing Sheffield twice over Christmas, but insists Nottingham must target success over the whole festive period.

Panthers also play Coventry Blaze twice before the turn of the year and Janssen is looking to close the gap on Cardiff at the top of the table.

“We’ve got to put together some wins here,” said Janssen. “It’s been a bad month for us, but good teams find a way to co-exist, come together and rebound well. We definitely have that type of team.

“We all get along, which is an anomaly with teams. A big run can change things. We’ve got big games home and away against Sheffield. I hear they’re pretty crazy so I’m looking forward to that versus a good competitive team.”

Nottingham hope to have one or both of key duo Stephen Schultz and Brad Moran back on the ice this weekend. With 43 points from 40 games between them, Janssen admits their return would be a big boost.

“You’ll always miss those guys but they’ll be back,” he said. “Injuries are injuries. These are the dog days of the year. When we get two key guys back it will help.”

Braehead forward Matt Haywood hopes momentum will continue when Clan face Dundee Stars on Boxing Day, before returning to home ice on Sunday against Belfast Giants.

After last week’s impressive 3-1 win at Cardiff, Haywood says going to Tayside to get points can be achieved if Clan adopt the same mentality.

“Dundee is really big game for us because of where they are in the league and the fact it’s a Conference game as well,” said Haywood.

“I’m not surprised by how well Dundee have done this season and they’re a team that’s a highly offensive unit, with guys like Bobby Chaumont, Curtis Leinweber and Lou Dickenson all a threat.

“They’re a good team and it’s a hard place to go and win so we have to go there feeling we’ve got a good chance of going there and getting the job done.

“Since the Cardiff game the mood’s been good among the locker room, although we were hugely disappointed by the game against Sheffield, but we bounced back really well.

“Sunday was probably the best performance of the season from us, especially when you consider it’s the toughest place in the league to go to. A win in regulation time gave us a huge boost also.

“Belfast at home is always a highly competitive game and we expect the same thing when they come to us on Sunday. It’s one that’s entertaining and we want nothing less than the two points.

“We’re two pretty evenly matched teams and hopefully it’s a good entertaining game for the fans.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

Saturday

Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers
Fife Flyers v Edinburgh Capitals
Dundee Stars v Braehead Clan
Cardiff Devils v Coventry Blaze

Sunday

Nottingham Panthers v Sheffield Steelers
Manchester Storm v Fife Flyers
Coventry Blaze v Cardiff Devils
Braehead Clan v Belfast Giants
Edinburgh Capitals v Dundee Stars

(Image permissions: Dean Woolley & Al Goold Photo)

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