having spent the majority of the season off the ice, Aaron Johnson’s return from injury could not have been better timed.
After breaking himself back with a first appearance in two months during Wednesday night’s 5-1 Challenge Cup semi-final, first leg win at Glasgow Clan, the 36-year-old veteran defenceman really will find himself being thrown back into the deep end this weekend.
But for a man with 291 NHL appearances to his name – not to mention over 450 in the AHL and nearly 100 in Germany’s DEL – the next 48 hours should pose no significant problem.
The Steelers enter the final two months of the campaign in a three-way battle for the Elite League regular season championship, top of the standings ahead of rivals Cardiff Devils and Belfast Giants.
First up is a trip to South Wales to take on Andrew Lord’s Devils, a team who they have come off second-best to on three previous occasions this season.
Tomorrow doesn’t see it get any easier for the Steelers – four points ahead of Cardiff, but who have four games in hand – when they welcome Belfast to the FlyDSA Arena (face-off 4pm).
That head-to-head series is all-square, Belfast having won 4-2 on the Steelers’ most recent visit to Northern Ireland last Friday.
But despite two tough encounters on the cards, having got himself back into game action in midweek, Johnson admits he is desperate to lock horns against such quality opposition.
“When I was out, these were the games I missed the most, whether it be the Nottingham games or these two teams – those are usually the most exciting games that everyone gets up for,” said Johnson.
“So there really is no better time to jump right into it and take that challenge head on.”
When I was out, these were the games I missed the most, whether it be the Nottingham games or these two teams – those are usually the most exciting games that everyone gets up forAaron Johnson
While stuck behind the bench during his enforced spell on the sidelines, Johnson was able to watch his team-mates go from strength to strength.
“We’ve just continued to get stronger and stronger as the season has gone on,” added Johnson. “We say it every year when new players come in, but it does take some time to get to know each other – especially on the ice. Hopefully, we’re at a point now where we can continue this consistency until the end of the season.”