SHEFFIELD Steelers may still be missing key personnel - but the arrival of two ‘new’ faces for this weekend should provide some comfort in what has been a frustrating start to the 2013-14 season.
The real business of the league doesn’t really kick in for a sustained period for the Steelers until next Wednesday when they welcome surprise early-season leaders Dundee Stars to Ice Sheffield - the first in a run of 16 consecutive league and conference games.
Six of Steelers’ opening nine games have been in the Challenge Cup, with a seventh taking place at the Motorpoint Arena on Saturday night against Coventry Blaze.
Another two points will confirm Steelers’ progression to the quarter-final stage from Group B.
For last Sunday’s 4-3 home defeat in the Cup by Cardiff Devils they were missing four key personnel, although that was offset by the arrival of Finnish forward Ilpo Salmivirta.
Further strengthening of a banged-up roster was confirmed by the arrival of Italy international forward Nate DiCasmirro on Friday, with a further boost revealed later in the day when it was revealed that American defenceman Chad Langlais would start his first game for the club since the pre-season European tour of Slovakia and Hungary which saw him return to the UK injured.
It remains to be seen whether fellow defenceman Dustin Kohn is fit to return for the Coventry clash with British blue liner Danny Meyers expected to remain on the sidelines after missing both games against Cardiff last weekend through injury.
DiCasmirro, with just over 400 AHL games to his name, landed at Manchester Airport on Friday afternoon and was quickly whisked across the Pennines to meet his new coach and team-mates.
The 35-year-old Italian-American, has spent the last three years playing in Italy’s top flight and starred in a 5-1 win against Great Britain in the World Championships in April.
“I’m pleased to be here,” said DiCasmirro. “The move has come about quickly and I couldn’t be happier.
“I played against Doug back in our junior days and spoke with him at the recent World Championships. He knew I was looking for a change after playing in Italy for a while so he made contact. We talked for a while and then I think we both went away and made some reference phone calls. The deal didn’t take long to agree so we both must have liked what we were told about each other.
“I pride myself on being a player you can have on the ice in the last minute - whether you are a goal up or a goal down. I think I can play both roles.”
Coventry coach Matt Soderstrom, who returns back to the Skydome Arena with his team on Sunday night to welcome Nottingham Panthers in another Group B game, added: ““Sheffield have made a few changes and some results have not gone the way they wanted them to - but they are still a good team with some good players.”