Second coming for Lawrence can boost Sheffield Steelers' title bid

Chris Lawrence is back for a second spell with Sheffield Steelers. Picture: Dean Woolley.
Chris Lawrence is back for a second spell with Sheffield Steelers. Picture: Dean Woolley.
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CHRIS LAWRENCE will be hoping to make a more lasting impression on Sheffield Steelers after agreeing to a second stint with the club.

The 31-year-old centre is no stranger to Steelers' head coach Paul Thompson or the club's fans following a short, 15-game stint in South Yorkshire during the 2015-16 Championship-winning season

Lawrence, with 181 AHL games to his name - chiefly with Norfolk Admirals, contributed six points and six assists after arriving from Coventry Blaze on a short-term deal to provide injury cover before departing after 15 games to begin a second spell with Nottingham Panthers.

But, this time around, the intention is that Lawrence - a 2005 third round NHL Draft pick for Tampa Bay Lightning - is expected to last the course, having been brought in by Thompson to fulfil a specific role, that of fourth-line centreman.

“I spoke for a long time with Chris about my plans to have him centre the fourth line," said Thompson. "It’s not a diminished role for him, it’s an important one for us and I spelt it out to him from the start. We know he can play up the line and that’s good because it puts pressure on those above him.

“We know he can kill penalties with his long stick and long reach, he is as good a face-off guy as there is in the league and, of course, he can chip in offensively."

Thompson, who saw centre John Armstrong end a two-year association with the Steelers after opting to make the switch to Medveščak Zagreb in the Austrian Hockey League earlier this week, said Lawrence was also a good guy to have around the locker room.

Lawrence was snapped up by Dundee Stars last season and made captain by coach Omar Pacha, but injury saw him miss the majority of the season as he made just 16 appearances.

"Larry knows the club and the league," added Thompson. "He is also a character, he is popular with everyone who knows him and he can lighten the mood. I think this is a great all around signing for us.

“I was gutted when Liam Stewarts injury meant he couldn’t join us but when I sat back and thought what was needed for this specific role Chris’s name popped into my head. I called him and told him of the position I had available and would he be interested; his reply was 100 per cent yes."

Armstrong's move to Austria for 2018-19 comes just days after fellow import Miika Franssila's move away from South Yorkshire for next season.

The Finnish defenceman was one of a handful of imports Thompson was hoping to entice back, but the 25-year-old will begin the next stage of his career with Hungarian club Dunaújvárosi Acélbikák in the Erste Liga.

Defenceman Mark Matheson is the one import remaining from last season, with the future of fellow defenceman Scott Aarssen the only remaining unknown.