YOUTH gets its chance in Glasgow on Friday night for Sheffield Steelers as head coach Paul Thompson rings the changes.
Having already secured a place in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Group as Group A winners with a 100 per cent record, the Steelers will take the opportunity to rest some of its top players by handing some invaluable extra ice time to its crop of talented youngsters.
One of the chief reasons behind the selection is down to the Cup group clash against Braehead Clan being the first of three games in as many nights for the South Yorkshire club.
League fixtures follow taking the Steelers back along the M8 to Kirkcaldy to take on Fife Flyers before a six-hour drive back down the A1 in the early hours of Sunday morning ahead of playing host to Braehead at Ice Sheffield later that evening.
All in all, a far-from-ideal schedule but something not uncommon for teams in the Elite League.
Hence why Thompson has opted for a more youthful approach in his team’s first outing of the weekend, with Brad Day replacing Ervins Mustukovs in goal, while teenagers Liam Kirk, Cole Shudra and Kieran Brown are all guaranteed plenty of ice time.
“There’s obviously pressure and we want to win the game, but we’ve already won the group so it’s a great way to get some more valuable minutes into these kids, particularly Cole and Kieran,” said Thompson. “Brad will get the start at Braehead as I don’t want Moose (Mustukovs) to play three in three.”
The game is also notable as it will give Steelers’ travelling support their first opportunity to see new signing Andre Deveaux in action, the former NHL forward having had a full week of practice and conditioning behind him. Thompson resisted the temptation to throw a player with such little recent game time in him straight into last weekend’s home double-header against Belfast Giants and Cardiff Devils.
“Andre had a tough workout on Tuesday and throughout the week so we’re getting him into some kind of game shape and that was the big thing,” added Thompson.
“He's a big guy and has a great skillset, but we can see the sharpness is coming on from him. We can see he’s a smart player - smart around the net and strong down low. He’s a big boy and we’re excited to see him.”
Brady Ramsay earns a recall to the starting line-up, while Colton Fretter is ruled out through a one-game suspension following his retaliation on Belfast’s Spiro Goulakos in last Sunday’s 4-3 defeat. Both players were ejected from the game following the incident, with Fretter's initial checking from behind penalty controversially being amended to a charging call by the league's Department of Player Safety (DoPS).
However, on Thursday night - following howls of protest from fans around the league on social media - league bosses revealed their decision to review the initial review undertaken by DoPS, asking for assistance from 'an outside body that currently look after player safety for another top-level professional league.' Which league that is has not been disclosed.
Defenceman Davey Phillips, meanwhile, will travel to Scotland with the Steelers, although it is thought the visit to Braehead will be too soon for him to make a return to the ice, although he could play some part in Fife.
Fellow defenceman Joonas Ronnberg will start the first of his last three games for the club having decided to return home to his native Finland early next week to be with his family.