SHEFFIELD STEELERS will have to play “smart” if they are to stand any chance of ending their barren run at Cardiff Devils when they visit South Wales for a third time this season tonight.
As expected, Steelers will be without defenceman Zack Fitzgerald this weekend after he was hit with a two-match ban by the Elite League’s Department of Player Safety. It follows an incident during Wednesday night’s 2-1 win over Cardiff when Fitzgerald was ejected from the game for checking from behind.
It carried an automatic one-game ban but, because of the severity of the incident, the EIHL have added a further match.
As if to balance things out – at least for tonight’s meeting – the league have also banned Cardiff’s Joey Haddad for two games after upgrading a game misconduct call he received on Wednesday for a check to the head to a match penalty.
Haddad was also hit with an additional one-match ban for elbowing in the same game.
The Steelers will also have another man missing in South Wales after yesterday releasing forward Mike Duco.
The Canadian scored 12 points, including four goals, in 19 matches for the Steelers, but has been deemed surplus to requirements by head coach Paul Thompson – particularly with the return to fitness of fellow forward Colton Fretter.
Cardiff welcome the Steelers boasting the only remaining unbeaten home record in the league this season, having won all 12 of their games there.
Previous visits this season have seen the Steelers beaten 5-3 in the Challenge Cup, plus a 5-1 drubbing in the league on October 11.
And while Steelers’ assistant coach Darrell Hay admitted that the odds of success in Cardiff were against them tonight, the South Yorkshire club were capable of ending their hosts’ impressive home streak.
“We have to disciplined, be smart and we have to keep our shifts short because we are going to be low on numbers,” said Hay.
“And we are certainly going to keep our heads about us because it is a tough building to play in.
“They are hostile fans down there and they get on top of you. But it is one of the best buildings to play in in this league because it is such a challenge.”
Tomorrow’s visit from Braehead Clan is the third meeting between the two teams this season, the hosts twice edging out Ryan Finnerty’s team by the odd goal.
Last weekend’s game in Glasgow proved to be a goal frenzy, with the Steelers prevailing in a shoot-out after the teams were tied at a remarkable 8-8 following overtime.