A MAXIMUM return against arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers over the next three days would help Sheffield Steelers’ season “jump forward”, according to head coach Doug Christiansen.
If the Steelers are to begin to put pressure on leaders Belfast Giants – Christiansen’s former club – they need to find a way to improve their record against the Panthers at least once in the traditional Christmas double-header.
Four times the teams have met so far this season – twice in the Challenge Cup group stages – with the Steelers only having won once, a 5-3 home win in the Elite League in November.
Neither side are in promising form coming into the games – the first being at Motorpoint Arena today (5pm) – which explains the mid-table position currently being endured by both.
Steelers’ inconsistency was once again evident at the weekend when they followed a win with a loss against the Cardiff Devils, while Panthers – so dominant on their way to the regular season championship last year – have already lost nine games, just one fewer than they suffered during the whole of last season.
For Christiansen, the fierce rivalry between the two teams is less of an issue than his team enjoying a productive festive period, starting at home today before Saturday’s return match at the National Ice Centre.
“We are two teams that don’t like each other and are always desperate to beat each other – that’s obvious,” said Christiansen.
“A four-point haul from these two games can really jump us forward.
“We know they are a very well-coached team, they are an exceptional offensive team and have the leading powerplay in the league while I think we have got the second-best penalty kill in the league – it should be a good contest.
“A good run over this period of time where we have seven games in 16 days can give you a good spur to get up onto the coat-tails of Belfast.
“Hopefully, we’ll gain a lot of momentum and build more confidence during this period and that can take us into the new year in a good place.”