Edinburgh Capitals’ Player/Coach Riley Emmerson has challenged his team to build on last week’s Elite League victory against Sheffield Steelers.
The result ended a run of nine games without a win, but still leaves Capitals with a tough task ahead if they’re to secure a top eight slot.
Saturday’s visitors Coventry Blaze have four games in hand over the Murrayfield men and Emmerson says his team must treat each game from now until the end of the season like a cup final in order to climb back up the table.
He said: “That’s the ugly win we were looking for to stop the bleeding and get some positivity and confidence back.
“Guys stepped up big – players like David Rutherford who scored two huge goals for us. We played better as a whole, and we made some adjustments after the first period which helped us.
“We have a lot of games coming up that are going to make or break our season. We play Coventry three times, two of which are at home and Manchester four times. That’s 14 points up for grabs right there.
“We’ve got to play every game here like it’s our last, if we do that the play-offs are still very achievable.”
Cardiff Devils and Nottingham Panthers put their title credentials on the line on Saturday as they face-off at the Big Blue Tent.
The pair are amongst five clubs chasing to be crowned champions and the game is crucial for both sides.
Cardiff Player/Coach Andrew Lord has strengthened his team by signing former Detroit Red Wings draft pick Gleason Fournier, with the 24-year-old defenseman joining the club from the ECHL’s Alaska Aces.
Lord said: ‘We’ve been looking at Gleason for close to two months. I felt we needed a bit more mobility at the back end.
“We are missing Tyson Marsh and we needed a guy. Gleason is a great skating D-man who has extremely good vision and a fantastic first pass.
“From what I’ve heard and watched over the last two months his defensive details have got way better.
“His defensive game is solid, he has good stick detail, is responsible on the ice and plays a lot of minutes on the powerplay.
“Overall he is going to be a well-rounded ‘D’-man. He will be good in our Big Blue Tent and when we move to the new rink he will be unbelievable.”
Fournier makes his debut against the Panthers and Lord says the game is a big challenge for his team.
“It’s huge – Nottingham are a tough test,” he added. “They are a great skating team with great depth who play well in our rink, but we’ll have a good week of practice and everybody will be ready.”
Braehead Clan netminder Gary Russell says he’s taken great confidence from two MVP performances over the festive period.
Russell has spent most of the season as back-up to Chris Holt, but a training injury to Clan’s first-choice goalie gave Russell his big chance.
He grabbed the opportunity with both hands, back-stopping Clan to a 4-1 win at Belfast Giants and a 2-1 victory at home Dundee Stars.
Russell said: “I’m pleased with the way I played and prove to the fans I have the ability to play at this level.
“It was the Monday training session when Chris got hurt – that’s when I found out. From that point we had to arrange an emergency back-up, and I thought it’s about time I had a shot here.
“I was wondering what Ryan (Finnerty) was going to do and if he was going to get someone else in. I had a gut feeling he would, so I knew I had to prove myself quickly.
“From a personal point of view I take a lot of confidence from it all. To get my first win was a lot of stress off my back to know that I can win at that level. Especially away from home at Belfast which is one of the toughest places to go.”
Russell got a third start in Clan’s 5-2 defeat at Fife Flyers, before Finnerty gave a debut to emergency signing Travis Fullerton in the 3-1 win against Cardiff.
The 28-year-old has spent his career in North America and brings a wealth of experience to the Elite League, but Russell says he’ll keep battling for the starting jersey.
“I turn up to training and try my hardest in every session – that stays the same,” said Russell.
“I thought Travis would get a shot on the Sunday. I’d played three games last week, so it’s mentally and physically tough. I wasn’t really expecting to play no matter what happened in Fife.
“I was happy Travis went in, and I think he had a bit of pressure on him to play well. We had a great team performance overall and we got the win, which was the main thing.
“I don’t know where it goes from here, whether Travis is going to be the starter or if I’m going to get another chance. We’ll have to wait and see how things pan out.”
Belfast Giants v Sheffield Steelers
Belfast Giants v Sheffield Steelers
Braehead Clan v Dundee Stars
Cardiff Devils v Nottingham Panthers
Edinburgh Capitals v Coventry Blaze
Fife Flyers v Manchester Storm
Coventry Blaze v Cardiff Devils
Dundee Stars v Edinburgh Capitals
Manchester Storm v Braehead Clan
Nottingham Panthers v Fife Flyers