Neil Clark says Sheffield Steelers must try to turn up the pressure on hosts Cardiff Devils as early as possible in the first of two crucial meetings between the Elite League title rivals on Saturday night.
The Canadian forward - currently enjoying a career high in terms of points during his first season in the UK - admits the current league leaders have not taken advantage of promising positions they have enjoyed down in South Wales previously this season.
The one that springs to mind for most Steelers’ supporters will be December’s 3-2 defeat in Cardiff Bay when the Steelers let a two-goal lead to slip to succumb to a third successive defeat of the season there.
An earlier visit saw player-coach Ben Simon’s team edged out 5-4 in the Challenge Cup, a night which saw them come back from four goals down to tie the game before a late Justin Sawyer strike sealed both points for the hosts. They also went down 5-3 in their first league visit to the venue back in October when they were severely hampered by the loss of several key players through injury.
Clark, 29, has proved a key figure during Simon’s first year in charge and became the Steelers’ leading scorer with 34 goals following his opening powerplay strike in Tuesday night’s 4-2 triumph at sixth-placed Braehead Clan.
After last month’s 7-1 humbling at home to the Devils, the former Laredo Bucks winger admits the Steelers would like to even the score over the coming weekend and believes a solid start is vital if they are to return from South Wales in positive mood.
“We’ve had chances to win games down there already this season and haven’t been able to take them,” said Clark.
“It will come down to getting a good start on Saturday if we want to put some pressure on them in front of their own fans.
“They beat us heavily last time in Sheffield and we feel like we have something to prove to ourselves.
“What happened in Sheffield was a surprise, but it was one of those nights where they played really well, while it was probably the worst we have played all season.”
Clark said league top scorer Jon Pelle was an obvious Devils threat over the weekend - given he has already scored seven times against the Steelers this season - although he believes Gerad Adams’s team have the capability to score from just about anywhere on the ice.
“Pelle has scored something like 50 goals, which is just insane,” said Clark. “Matzka as got something like two points a game or something. Their top line is supremely talented but they are so deep and it is hard to pinpoint any weaknesses.
“But, it’s been proved recently that they are not unbeatable but we have to be confident we can beat them.”