ALTHOUGH he is often the first to promote the team ethic present among his Sheffield Steelers’ roster, head coach Paul Thompson admits he cannot wait for injured centre Andreas Valdix to return to the fray.
The 31-year-old Swedish forward has been out since the 5-1 win over Belfast Giants on November 20 after a slash to the hand left him requiring surgery the following week.
The good news for Thompson – who yesterday axed misfiring forward Jesse Schultz – is that Valdix has been back out skating.
The bad news is that he will not be back in competitive action for at least another week, potentially returning for the double header weekend at Belfast next week.
With Valdix on the sidelines, the Steelers have somewhat stuttered – losing ground in the title race with the top two of Cardiff Devils and Belfast.
Six losses in 11 Elite League outings – two of which have come at the hands of Cardiff and another against Belfast – mean the Steelers urgently need to bounce back in this weekend’s double header against a resurgent Manchester Storm.
“Having Valdix out has been a huge loss for us,” admitted Thompson.
“He brings the best out of (Robert) Dowd and (Levi) Nelson and I think he is one of the premier centremen in the league.
“We’ve lost these games recently with him being out of our line-up and we’re looking forward to getting him back.
“He’s skating now. His hand is still healing, but he’s skating so he’ll be ready to go as soon as we get the all-clear on the healing process for the hand.
“We’re hoping he’ll be back for the Belfast weekend.”
As a player-coach, Storm boss Omar Pacha is still to taste victory over the Steelers in two seasons of trying. But this weekend will present him with his best chance yet, given his side’s current form which has catapulted them to sixth in the standings – just four points behind today’s hosts (3pm).
“We’re expecting two tough games this weekend,” added Thompson. “We had two very close games against them in the Challenge Cup and I like their team – they are extremely hard working.
“We’ve had our wobble and it’s got to stop Saturday, simple as that. The next two to three weeks are the most crucial part of the season for us.”
We’ve had our wobble and it’s got to stop Saturday, simple as that. The next two to three weeks are the most crucial part of the season for us.Paul Thompson, Sheffield Steelers’ head coach