Defenceman Zack Fitzgerald took a big step on the road to recovery yesterday when he skated for the first time since being hit in the face by a puck.
The Sheffield Steelers’ blue liner has been out of action since sustaining the injury in a 3-1 win over Coventry Blaze on November 26, the 32-year-old American losing several teeth and suffering a small fracture to the jaw.
While he will not play any part in this weekend’s games against Braehead Clan and Belfast Giants, head coach Paul Thompson said he is hopeful Fitzgerald may return the following week when the Steelers travel to reigning Elite League champions Cardiff Devils before returning home to host Fife Flyers.
“It was good to see him out there at the end of our training session,” said Thompson. “He’s making good strides, but it was a real nasty one and he’s certainly not going to play any part this weekend, but we’re hopeful for the following weekend. We’ll just have to see.”
Thompson also had a chance on Thursday to cast an eye over new arrival Miika Franssila, the Finnish defenceman who arrived late on Wednesday night.
“He’s a good puck-moving defenceman and we could see that in practice,” said Thompson, who is expecting a tough challenge in Braehead tonight against hosts who have gone on to win six out of eight games since the Steelers beat them 6-0 in Sheffield on October 29.
“Miika is a totally different style of player to Jonas Ronnberg and we certainly feel that he can add to the offensive side of our game. In 5-on-5, we feel we need some more creativity and he will bring us that.”
Thompson said he expected forward Brady Ramsay to return home to North America, despite initial interest from a number of other Elite League teams after he was cut from the Steelers’ roster on Tuesday.
The 24-year-old made just 22 appearances for the Steelers since arriving in August, forever finding himself as the spare import the team were carrying, limiting his ice time and leaving him with just the one goal and five assists during his time at the club.
“I didn’t think it was fair to Brady and I felt he was going to pretty much be the spare for pretty much the rest of the season,” said Thompson.
Miika is a totally different style of player to Jonas Ronnberg and we certainly feel that he can add to the offensive side of our game.Sheffield Steelers’ head coach Paul Thompson
“He’s a young guy making his way in the game and I just had to be honest with him. He’s had four or five teams looking at him over here, but I think he’ll be heading home.”
The Steelers take Saturday night off after their trip to Glasgow before hosting title rivals Belfast at Sheffield Arena on Sunday, Adam O’Keeffe’s team currently sitting second in the table, two points and one spot above Thompson’s team.