PAUL THOMPSON has challenged his battered and bruised Sheffield Steelers team to step up and fill in the gaps left by the latest injury crisis to hit the club.
The South Yorkshire outfit head into tonight’s home clash with Elite League leaders Cardiff Devils without the key trio of Guillaume Desbiens, Robert Dowd and Colton Fretter.
Desbiens is out for an unknown length of time with an upper-body injury, while Dowd is out for up to four-six weeks with a knee injury. Fellow forward Fretter is missing due to a second groin injury of the season, meaning Thompson will be calling upon all his resources to try and get the better of one of their main rivals for the title.
Dowd is once again one of the leading points-scorers for Steelers, contributing 29 points, including 13 goals, in 36 games.
And while mid-season pick-up Desbiens may not prove so prolific in terms of points, Thompson believes the 30-year-old Canadian has brought in other, crucial qualities that will need to be replaced by others on the roster for as long as he remains on the sidelines.
“Guillaume was a massive reason for our season turning around when we were struggling in November,” said Thompson, of the former NHL player, who arrived from Olimpija Ljubljana in the Austrian League in late November.
“I think he provided the kind of intensity that we needed at that stage of the season.
“He’s an outstanding penalty killer and shot blocker, he puts his body on the line and he has also chipped in with goals at crucial times for us.
“Having him out, as well as Dowdy and Fretts, is a huge blow, but it is up to others to step up and provide the kind of qualities that Guillaume and the others provide for us. I believe we have that elsewhere in the locker room and we’re going to need it on Saturday against what is a very good Cardiff Devils team.”
Second-placed Steelers – who travel to fifth-placed Dundee Stars tomorrow – have a chance to avenge last Sunday’s 7-3 defeat in Cardiff, which saw the Welsh team move six points clear.
While the Steelers have struggled in South Wales this season, three previous meetings against Cardiff at Sheffield Arena have seen them prevail on each occasion.