DAVEY PHILLIPS says his injury blow could not have come at a worse time as Sheffield Steelers gear up for the traditionally hectic festive period.
The 31-year-old defenceman faces up to eight weeks on the sidelines after suffering a broken and dislocated wrist in the recent 4-2 win at home against his former club, Belfast Giants.
After Wednesday night’s 4-4 Challenge Cup quarter-final first leg draw at home to Guildford Flames, Steelers’ head coach Tom Barrasso said moves to help bring in cover for the experienced Phillips would hopefully be resolved within the next week.
As for Phillips, he is initially consigned to off-ice fitness work while his injury mends, but he is hopeful of being back in contention sooner than was initially expected, with the GB international targeting an early-to-mid January return.
The Steelers host Coventry Blaze on Saturday night before Wednesday night’s second leg of their Challenge Cup tie at Guildford Flames. They then face a frantic Christmas schedule that hands them six games in 11 days, including the annual double header against arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers on Boxing Day and December 27.
Missing that run of games is what frustrates Phillips the most, although he is determined to remain positive.
“The fact that we are playing well as a team makes it that bit more frustrating having to sit out,” said Phillips.
“I was really looking forward to this busy period over Christmas. Yes, it’s always a challenge but it’s one I like being involved in, particularly with how well we’re playing at the moment.
“We’ve been doing well with how the coach has been wanting us to play and it felt like my fitness was right up there too. But I try not to get too frustrated - you’ve just got to accept it as best you can and stay positive.”
Coventry’s previous visit to Sheffield Arena saw the Steelers edge to a 5-4 overtime win, evidence - Phillips believes - of the team’s improved ‘staying power’ that has developed under Barrasso’s watch.
“The coach obviously identified the style of hockey that is needed in this league and it is paying off for us,” added Phillips. “I really feel like we’ve turned a corner and every game here on out is going to be exciting, fast-paced and full of high-energy.
“He worked us really hard those first few weeks and said to us ‘it is going to be tough, but it is going to pay off in the end’. Everyone is realising that now because our record of pulling games back in the third period is impressive. It’s good to see all that extra work is working.”