IF ever the Sheffield Steelers needed a shot in the arm, this weekend would be a good time to deliver it.
Heading into a home and away double-header against bottom club Milton Keynes Lightning a maximum four-point haul is clearly the sought-after return, if for nothing else other than bringing about the end of a five-game losing streak that has left the South Yorkshire club just one place above their struggling Buckinghamshire rivals.
A 4-3 win for Dundee Stars over Nottingham Panthers last night turned up the pressure on the Steelers that little bit more in terms of their play-off hopes, with 23 games remaining in order to salvage what has been a so-far largely forgettable campaign.
It is hoped a shake-up of the playing roster earlier this week that saw Croatian winger Tom Zanoski come in while three players headed out will bring about the desired upturn in results for Tom Barrasso’s misfiring team.
A key component of that line-up will be centre John Armstrong, back for a second stint in South Yorkshire after a brief stay in the EBEL with the same Medvescak Zagreb team as Zanoski.
Since his return shortly before Christmas 30-year-old Armstrong has contributed four goals and three assists and is aiming to play a big part in a well-timed run towards the play-offs, the hope being he can help the Steelers repeat their memorable success in the post-season from two years ago when they beat Cardiff Devils 6-5 in an epic final.
We’re not just wanting to squeeze into the play-offs we have to turn things around now, get the confidence up and get the team playing well. Then we can go into the play-offs on a positive, high notSheffield Steelers’ John Armstrong
“We’re not just wanting to squeeze into the play-offs, we have to turn things around now, get the confidence up and get the team playing well,” said Armstrong. “Then we can go into the play-offs on a positive, high note and, hopefully, end the season like we did a couple of years ago in Nottingham, which was such a great feeling.
“Timing and momentum are what we are going to need between now and the end of the season.
“We have shown at times that we can play with some of the top teams in the league – such as over in Belfast recently – we just need to make sure we do it on a consistent basis.”