MATT MARQUARDT is being backed to deliver in the power forward role he was brought in for by the Sheffield Steelers - after getting his season up and running at the second time of asking.
The 30-year-old winger has been restricted to just three competitive games for the Elite League play-off champions having picked up an injury during a pre-season encounter against Germany’s Nurnburg Ice Tigers.
It meant the Canadian - a seventh round draft pick by the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets back in 2006 - missed the next 10 games, including two pre-season tussles against former club Coventry Blaze from where he switched in the summer.
Marquardt finally got back on the ice last weekend, but it came in a losing cause as the Steelers lost out twice to the Belfast Giants.
But they bounced back in midweek through a late John Armstrong strike to deny league newcomers Milton Keynes Lightning 4-3 and for Marquardt it was noteworthy on a personal level as the game also saw him register his first competitive point for the Steelers with a first-period goal.
Steelers’ head coach Paul Thompson was pleased to see Marquardt get off the mark and will be hoping he can add to his tally when facing former club Coventry in a double-header weekend, with the first game being at Sheffield Arena tonight (7pm) before the two reconvene at the Skydome Arena 24 hours later.
“It was great to see Marquardt back and scoring a powerplay goal,” said Thompson. “But he’s effectively starting from scratch again fitness-wise having being out for so long already.
“It’s good to see him having an impact. He wanted to come in and make an impression and he was doing well until he got injured, so it’s been tough for him. He’s worked his backside off though and he’s in better shape now than when he came in at the start of the season.
“He’s a big boy and he can help us keep the puck in the offensive zone and he’s strong in the corners. He’s got a good stride too and when he goes to the net he’s a tough guy to contain.
“I felt we needed another power forward and he’s going to bring that for us.”
He’s worked his backside off though and he’s in better shape now than when he came in at the start of the season.Sheffield Steelers’ head coach Paul Thompson on forward Matt Marquardt
Coventry come into Sheffield on the back of two defeats from the previous weekend, suffering a 2-0 defeat Fife Flyers in the league before losing 7-4 at home in the Challenge Cup to Milton Keynes.
On the other side of the coin they have picked up impressive wins over early-season league leaders Manchester Storm and Braehead Clan.
Given the physical nature of the two pre-season exhibition games, which left the Steelers with a handful of short-term walking wounded, there is unlikely to be any quarter given with a lot more on the line this weekend.