Ryan seeks to strengthen the blue line

Puck stops here: Ryan Finnerty decides a change in emphasis is required because of Rod Sarich's absence.'     Picture: rik rayner

Puck stops here: Ryan Finnerty decides a change in emphasis is required because of Rod Sarich's absence.' Picture: rik rayner

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RYAN FINNERTY’S recruitment plans signal a shift in emphasis at Sheffield Steelers.

With Rod Sarich out for the season after an operation on his internal injuries, some fans thought Finnerty would try and replace him like-for-like.

But instead of an offensive defenceman in Sarich’s mould, Finnerty has been lining up a stay-at-home blue liner. A contract offer has gone out to a Central Hockey League Canadian skater who is mulling over the idea.

Finnerty would then rely on existing d-men Matt Stephenson and Steve Birnstill to trigger offence from the back.

The player-coach said: “I would be more comfortable with a defensive defenceman coming in. Maybe we need more strength than offensive push.

“You know when the right guy comes along - and the one we are talking to will make us more grounded at the back, he’ll provide another safety net.

“Going down the stretch you need to tighten up a bit. We have other d-men who can go forward and on the Power Play we’re using Jeff Legue and Mike Ramsay on point, so we’ll be fine.”

The player being targeted showed some offensive leanings during his college days, anyway, said Finnerty.

“He’s been round the block and comes highly recommended by our goalie (John DeCaro) - and when your goalie picks somebody to stand in front of him, you have to listen.”

Finnerty says that the Continental Cup experience taught him one fundamental lesson: “We need more players.”

And the return of previously injured skipper Jonathan Phillips (against Cardiff Devils at home on Saturday) will go some way towards that.

“Having Jono back will be great, I call him my Labrador. If I throw a puck up the ice he just gallops off and brings it back to me!

“When he’s not in the team we feel we are missing a beat.”

The coach also had warm words for the Steelers’ fans that travelled to Denmark for the Euro series. “If it wasn’t for them there would hardly have been anybody there.

So near Christmas it was unbelievable.

There were around 150 people there.”

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