Sheffield Steelers in race against time to cover loss of key man Armstrong

SIDELINED: John Armstrong could be out of action for the Sheffield Steelers for up to three months due to a hand injury sustained during a fight against Nottingham Panthers on Wednesday night. Picture: Dean Woolley.
SIDELINED: John Armstrong could be out of action for the Sheffield Steelers for up to three months due to a hand injury sustained during a fight against Nottingham Panthers on Wednesday night. Picture: Dean Woolley.
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PAUL THOMPSON intends to have a new face on his Sheffield Steelers' roster in time for next weekend's crucial Elite League double header at Belfast Giants.

The five-time EIHL champions have been forced into the market after being rocked by news that influential centre John Armstrong could be out for up to 12 weeks - potentially the remainder of the regular season - with a hand injury.

The softly-spoken 29-year-old Canadian injured himself when he got embroiled in a fight during last Wednesday's 5-0 win at Nottingham Panthers, his finger being damaged after it got caught up in his jersey.

“The doctors call it 'Jersey finger,'” said Armstrong. “I didn’t feel it at the time or immediately after the game, but there is serious nerve and tendon damage. The finger isn’t doing anything at the moment, not moving. It's a strange feeling and a most frustrating one.

“We have been playing so well recently and, as with all players, you want to play, you don’t want to sit and watch. I will have the treatment as soon as possible and work around the clock to get back as soon as possible."

Head coach Thompson will be dismayed by the news regarding Armstrong, who after an impressive first season for the club, has again racked up decent numbers, registering 37 points so far - including 18 goals - in 40 appearances.

"Getting somebody else in could happen very quickly," said Thompson, with the club hoping to make an announcement on Armstrong's replacement by Wednesday at the latest ahead of the first of two games at the SSE Arena in Belfast on Friday night.

It could prove a pivotal weekend in the title race for the Steelers, who can pull themselves to within two points of the second-placed Giants if they beat Manchester Storm on New Year's Day.

In all four previous Erhardt Conference games between Sheffield and Belfast this season, the Giants have prevailed every time - three of those wins coming in Sheffield.

FRUSTRATION: Paul Thompson is desperate to bring in a replacement for John Armstrong ahead of next weekend's double header against title rivals Belfast. Picture: Dean Woolley.

FRUSTRATION: Paul Thompson is desperate to bring in a replacement for John Armstrong ahead of next weekend's double header against title rivals Belfast. Picture: Dean Woolley.