FANS will get an idea this weekend whether the sacking of Colt King - Sheffield Steelers law enforcer - will effectively give the green light for opposing players to step up their physical game against the former champions.
Hull Stingrays can be an ‘in-your-face team,’ especially in their own rink and especially with former Steelers’ rough-house Derek Campbell working his way down the boards.
Steelers travel there tonight before hosting them tomorrow in the second round of the Play Off quarter-finals.
Sheffield’s roster does have players who can be physical: Neil Clark, Matt Stephenson and Jason Hewitt spring to mind, but none are in the mould of King.
While King might not have been performing at his best before being released, his presence deterred rivals from going after Sheffield’s skilled players.
Defenceman Steve Birnstill expects a bumpy ride as Steelers attempt to play their way in to the semi finals at Nottingham Arena where, it has to be said, much more dangerous and physical sides will await.
The American skater said: “Hull always play hard against us, it will be a gritty series, they are pretty tough, there is going to be a lot of hitting, we know they are going to come hard at us.
“But winning the Play Offs would be great. It wouldn’t compensate for not winning the League, that’s biggest one here but it’s a big trophy, so we have to focus and work hard.”
Birnstill, who hopes to be returning for a second season next campaign, admits league winners Belfast Giants will be favourites to do the double.
“They only lost eight times but being the underdog may be good for us.”
Team-mate Stephenson agreed that victory would be a boost for the club.
“At the beginning of the season we were going after three (titles) but now there is one left of those.
“Hull are very dangerous, they have given us trouble all year.
“They are well coached and have guys that can hurt you offensively, a couple of d-men that can move the puck, a good goalie, there is nothing that isn’t scary about that team. But if we show up and play and work together we are fine.”
n Sheffield winger Clark will tonight to reach 100 all-time EIHL games played.
n Skipper Jonathan Phillips needs three assists to reach 200 all-time assists.