Jason Hewitt back up to speed as Sheffield Steeldogs look to derail Leeds Knights title bid
Having spent three and a half months out on the sidelines with an upper-body injury, Hewitt, pictured, spent his time usefully during his recovery, helping out head coach Greg Wood on the bench.
But nothing quite replaces the joy gained from playing and, at 38, the former GB international shows no sign of giving up just yet.
He returned to the fray in time for the Steeldogs' NIHL National Cup semi-final against Leeds at the end of last month, part of a demanding three-game weekend.
Another three-game weekend was to follow. Tuesday night’s game makes it four games in five days. Talk about being thrown back in at the deep end.
"It was obviously a case of jumping right back into it when I came back against Leeds, Peterborough and then Telford that first weekend, but I’m getting the timing back now," said Hewitt.
"It was quite a shock to the system coming back for two three-in-three weekends after three and a half months out.
"But one of the hardest things has been the fact we didn't have a full line-up together when I got back.
"So mixing and matching lines probably made it that bit more difficult, but I feel okay and last weekend (February 4-5) was probably the first weekend in which I felt almost normal."
Further evidence of Hewitt returning to his old self arrived in Friday’s win at Leeds Knights, when he skilfully steered home a back-hand effort in the third period to draw his team level before making a nuisance of himself around the Knights’ net shortly after to help set up Jonathan Kirk’s game-winner.
After the highs of that first derby win of the season against Leeds, the rest of the weekend - yet another three-gamer - proved frustrating for the Steeldogs, following up a 4-3 shootout loss at home to Raiders IHC with a 6-3 defeat on the road at defending champions Telford Tigers.
Tonight though sees the Steeldogs bring an end to a frantic spell of four games in five days when they face the Knights for a sixth and final regular season encounter at Ice Sheffield.
A win would move the hosts to within eight points of third-placed Peterborough Phantoms.
The Knights, who trail MK Lightning at the top of the table by a single point having responded to their defeat to Sheffield with a 9-0 hammering of Raiders IHC on Sunday night, play four games in six days.
After tonight’s trip to Sheffield, they return to Romford to take on the Raiders on Wednesday for the second time in four days.