TOM BARRASSO admits some of his Sheffield Steelers’ players still need to get 'up to speed' in order to consistently produce the fast-paced game he believes will bring a return to winning ways.
The 53-year-old American takes his team down to South Wales on Saturday night to face defending Elite League champions Cardiff Devils, now finished with an unsuccessful Champions Hockey League group campaign which failed to produce a single win.
The Devils’ domestic form, however, is a complete contrast, having lost just one game all season when edged out on the road 4-3 at Nottingham Panthers.
With Steelers heading to Ice Arena Wales on the back of a five-game losing streak in the league, the odds are heavily stacked against Barrasso’s charges.
But, despite continuing injury woes, he has seen enough to offer him plenty of encouragement in his first two games in charge against Nottingham and Fife Flyers, despite the negative outcome in both encounters.
In Wednesday night’s 3-1 home defeat, Steelers were generally dominant against a second-placed Fife side with only one league defeat all season - that coming against the against the same opponents at the same venue a month earlier.
READ/WATCH MORE - Match report: Sheffield Steelers 1 Fife Flyers 3
If there was one failing, it was the Steelers' struggle to maintain the frantic pace with which they started the game for the entire 60 minutes - in particular during the second period - although Barrasso is confident any players struggling to adjust under his regime will soon be up to speed.
“The biggest problem we have right now is health - I don’t think we’re healthy enough and then we’re also working on our actual fitness as well,” said Barrasso.
“Our pace of play in order to be successful needs to be high and I think some of the players are struggling to keep up with that. But, as time goes by, we will get them into condition and we’ll be fine.”
Barrasso was pleased with the performances of forwards Rob Dowd and Jordan Owens on their return from injury for the Fife encounter, but it’s not clear whether fellow forwards Evan McGrath, Chris Lawrence or Brandon Whistle will play any part this weekend.
“I thought they (Owens and Dowd) played very well,” added Barrasso, who used just nine forwards against Fife, with teenager Kieran Brown a bystander on the bench.
“You put two skilled players like that back in your line-up and it gives you a dramatic improvement of what we had in the game against Nottingham. As we get healthy bodies back we’re just going to get better as a team.
After their trip to South Wales, Steelers play host to Manchester Storm at Sheffield Arena on Sunday (4pm face-off).