SHEFFIELD Steelers’ captain Jonathan Phillips says his team needs to be on their guard as the Cardiff Devils’ juggernaut comes rolling into South Yorkshire on Saturday night.
After a typically slow start to the season, Gerad Adams’ team have hit a rich vein of form, only losing one in their last five, albeit that being a 5-0 defeat at Nottingham last weekend.
But, that shut-out setback aside, Phillips - a one-time Devils favourite himself until switching to the Steelers in 2006 - believes his former club are now on a roll and cannot be underestimated.
At one point, Cardiff were regarded as a weak road team, but they have picked up some notable scalps away from South Wales this season, the most recent coming up at Dundee Stars two weeks ago when they brought an end to the best home record in the Elite League with an emphatic 9-1 victory over the Scottish club.
“They’ve definitely improved since the start of the season,” said Phillips. “But then they always do seem to take a little while to get going. Once they do, though, you don’t really want to face them too often.
“They’ve got some great forward lines but, in a way, that’s a good thing. You know what you’re going to get with Cardiff and you need to make sure you are switched on from the day before almost because they can hurt you if you’re not ready.”
Sunday sees the Steelers pay a third visit of the season to South Wales, this time in the Challenge Cup. Both sides have won one each of the previous two league meetings and another triumph would see Ryan Finnerty’s team - missing defencemen Danny Meyers and James Jorgenson due to injury - return to the top of the Group B standings above rivals Nottingham Panthers with one game remaining.
Cardiff are already out of the competition, a home defeat by Hull Stingrays last month making it mathematically impossible for them to qualify for the quarter-final stages. But Phillips doesn’t expect the South Wales club to hold back as a result.
“They may not want to pick up any injuries in what is, basically, a meaningless game for them,” added Phillips.
“But they’ve got some momentum going at the moment so they are not going to want to sit back and lose any of that.
“With our two wins last weekend we’ve got some momentum going as well, so we need to make sure we can keep that going.”