ROD Sarich’s freak kidney injury and subsequent operation have cast a shadow over Sheffield Steelers as they head into their Continental Cup mission in Denmark.
Sarich, 30, had to have part of one kidney removed following a challenge in last Sunday’s Nottingham Panthers game and is out for the season.
As both a personality and a player, Sarich will be missed as Sheffield take on three opponents in Group D of the Continental Cup.
But while his absence will leave a gap on the blueline, Sheffield are determined to respond to the challenge in the right way.
Asked about the Scandinavian tournament coach Ryan Finnerty said: “There is a ton of pressure at home, so right now we are going to be just a bunch of kids playing hockey.
“We are going to go over and see where we stack up, test ourselves against an unknown quantity.
“We don’t know what we’re up against. There is nothing we can do, there’s no video to watch, we have just got to go out and play our system. Ofcourse we want to win but we are under no pressure, we can go out and play hockey the way we can and enjoy it.
“Nottingham games, for instance, bring a lot of pressure on guys to win. That’s what its like to play in Sheffield; they (fans) demand you win and don’t accept losing. Now we are happy to get to a point where we can relax, have some fun.
“There will be a feeling out process against these teams, we will have to bring our ‘A game.’”
Sarich’s absence will give Steve Birnstill the opportunity to shine. He can be quick and dangerous going forward, but so far has not converted that energy into goals.
Steelers games -
Friday: v HC Asiago (Italy) 3pm. Saturday: v Herning Blue Fox (hosts) 7pm. Sunday v Dunaujvarosi Acelbikak (Hungary) 3pm (all local time).
The winners progress to the ‘super finals’ in Rouen, France from January 13-15 against Rouen, Yunost Minsk and the winners of Group E.