Phillips has been missing since the 4-2 win over Belfast Giants on December 2 when he suffered a dreadful hand and wrist injury that saw him require surgery.
His absence has coincided with a frustratingly inconsistent period for the Steelers, who have lost half of their last 18 games overall and currently sit one point and one place outside the Elite League playoff spots, although there are 20 games remaining.
Prior to Phillips’s injury, Tom Barrasso’s team had won eight out of 10 games as they strived to turn around a poor start to the 2018-19 campaign.
After Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to defending league champions Cardiff Devils, the Steelers head coach said it was possible that GB international Phillips could return to action for tomorrow night’s visit from Glasgow Clan, which is followed by a trip to Manchester Storm on Sunday.
With fellow defenceman Josh McFadden also currently out injured, it has left the Steelers operating with just four defencemen and although young Latvian Silvestrs Selickis was parachuted in earlier this week to provide short-term injury cover, he was used sparingly against leaders Cardiff.
Along with Aaron Johnson, Mark Matheson and Ryan Martinelli, O’Connor has been forced to take on the extra workload in recent weeks and said it would be good to see his friend back in the Steelers line-up.
“We are missing Davey, big time,” said O’Connor, often paired with Phillips on the Steelers back end. “He’s an unsung hero, he’s not flashy and he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves but as a team-mate, a friend and as a defensive partner, I miss him dearly.
“He’s so vital to the team – just having him around picks everybody up. He’s a great team-mate and when things are a bit down, like they are now for us, you need those sort of characters.”
Barrasso agreed that Phillips’s return could not come soon enough, adding: “I honestly think it is a daily thing, it’s not unreasonable to think it’s possible for him to return this weekend – it may not happen but it is a possibility.
“The biggest thing is that we will be able to roll five defenceman and take some of the load off the other guys which means we’ll be fresher at the end of games and be able to make more plays.”