Sheffield Steelers must shrug off illness issues before cup tie with Nottingham Panthers

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The Challenge Cup final is just 13 days away - and Sheffield Steelers have more of an incentive than most to be in it.

Tonight they host their semi-final first leg against Nottingham Panthers, with the decider on Wednesday at the National Ice Centre. A Steelers’ win will see them play at Sheffield Arena against the winner of the Belfast Giants v Cardiff Devils semi final. They also play tonight, with Devils hoping to hold on to a 5-3 first leg lead.

Robert Dowd in action for Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers last year

Robert Dowd in action for Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers last year

Rob Dowd, with a knee problem yet to fully heal, is unlikely to make the final should they proceed and cannot even answer definitively whether he will play a part in any of the remaining seven league games.

But he recognises the importance of the Cup to supporters.

“With the final being at our home venue you want nothing more than to be there at the main event” he says. “Obviously a home crowd behind you will always help. We want to be there as much as anyone wants to be there so we will see how it goes.”

Steelers have had several players under the weather after a bug swept the camp, with Jeff Legue and Jonathan Phillips particularly affected.

Legue had little to eat last weekend and was physically ill in between periods in the win at Cardiff on Sunday.

But a big match against Nottingham - despite the fact it’s having to be staged at iceSheffield - should but ailments to the back of players’ minds, once again.

Tyler Mosienko captured the weekend limelight with five goals against Devils, over two nights.

But 40-year-old Conny Stromberg put in a couple of excellent displays, scoring two goals and an assist in South Wales. He has scored eight points his last four games and looks twice the player he was when he joined Sheffield in January.

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