AARON FOX is expecting no let-up for his Sheffield Steelers team this weekend when they head off on a Scottish weekend away.
The Steelers – buoyed by back-to-back victories in the Challenge Cup over Nottingham Panthers last week – head to third-place Fife Flyers tonight before an overnight stay allows them time to prepare for a second trip of the season to Dundee Stars.
Fox, who has added further defensive cover in the shape of Finnish-born Miiko Kuukka and is hoping to have defenceman Aaron Brocklehurst back from an injury lay-off, believes the Steelers will come under immense pressure on both nights.
“I’ve watched Fife on film and they play hard, they play aggressive in the offensive zone and if we don’t take care of the puck, we’re going to get hurt,” said head coach Fox, who admitted the smaller rinks brought different challenges for his players.
“It is a positive for the teams playing at home in these smaller rinks because they are obviously more used to it,” added Fox.
“It’s a little bit of an adjustment from our end because they try to clog up the neutral zone a little bit too and goad you into making plays in those small areas.
“So we just need to make sure we stick to our gameplan, get pucks into the O-zone and make them pay once we get it there.”
Kuukka’s arrival on Friday night comes just over a week after the signing of Czech Republic D-man Marek Troncinsky to help cover the absence of Brocklehurst, Aaron Johnson and Jonas Liwing.
“Mikko is a big steady stay at home D-man,” said Fox.“He skates very well for a big guy and plays a heavy game. He has been a guy known for playing against other teams top players in a shutdown role and keeps the game simple and is a real team guy. He will bring a defense first mentality to our group.
“With the amount of games coming up over the next five weeks and long term injuries to AJ and Jonas still a long ways out, we felt it was important to be pro-active and make sure we are in a position to have success, especially if we lost anyone else.”
It’s a little bit of an adjustment from our end because they try to clog up the neutral zone a little bit too and goad you into making plays in those small areas.Sheffield Steelers’ head coach, Aaron Fox
On Brocklehurst, who missed last week’s double-header against the Panthers, Fox said a decision whether he would be recovered in order to play in Kirkcaldy, would be left as late as possible.
“We’re not 100 per cent on him,” said Fox. “He’s had a good week of practice but we’ll cross that bridge today with the medical team and decide whether he needs another weekend to get right or whether he is good to go.
“He’ll likely make the trip but we’ll leave it as late as possible before deciding whether he is ready or not.”