IT IS back to the weekly grind for Sheffield Steelers as they return to Elite League action following their highs of last weekend when they secured progression in the Continental Cup.
As the Steelers have found to their cost already this season, there are rarely any easy games in the Elite League and neither of this weekend’s opponents will offer any respite.
In their first season in the EIHL after transferring up from the now-defunct English Premier League, Milton Keynes Lightning have adapted to life at the higher level quite comfortably and are raising a few eyebrows under head coach Pete Russell, who also doubles up as the GB men’s national coach.
They sit top of a Patton conference comprised of Manchester Storm, Coventry Blaze and fellow newcomers to the top tier, Guildford Flames, who also seem to have fitted in well.
After their trip to Buckinghamshire, the Steelers return to resume hostilities with Coventry, who will head to Sheffield Arena still smarting from a 5-2 defeat at the hands of bottom club Edinburgh Capitals – only the struggling Scottish club’s second win of the season.
So far it is honours even between Paul Thompson’s team and the Blaze, the Steelers having prevailed 5-2 on home ice back in September before losing out 5-1 the following night in the West Midlands.
The Steelers are hampered with an injury concern to forward Levi Nelson following last weekend’s European adventure in Denmark and head coach Thompson said he would make a game-day decision on the 29-year-old Canadian.
Nelson received a nasty blow when he was checked into the boards during last Sunday’s 4-2 win against Latvian side Kurbads Riga, a result which sealed Steelers’ progression into the third and final round in January.
“Levi is made of tough stuff,” said Thompson “But even the toughest sometimes stay down. The hit was horrible and would have been punished hard over here in our league. When you go head first into the boards it is hard to recover.
“We won’t rush him back.”
He added: “We all know that Levi will be back in the line-up as soon as he can be. We have a spare right now and if Levi can’t go then we can still dress a full line-up.”
Even the toughest sometimes stay down. The hit was horrible and would have been punished hard over here in our league. When you go head first into the boards it is hard to recover. We won’t rush him back.Sheffield Steelers’ head coach, Paul Thompson