Only a win will suffice for Sheffield Steelers and Nottingham Panthers
Neither coach at Sheffield Steelers or Nottingham Panthers would be satisfied if the teams shared the points this weekend, from their back-to-back games.
Normally a ‘split weekend’ is considered a reasonable outcome when the two giants of the Elite League lock horns at each other other’s rinks.
But with division pacesetters Cardiff Devils 13 points clear of second place Steelers - the Welsh also beat Nottingham 3-1 on Wednesday night - maximum points are seen as more significant than ever by Paul Thompson and Corey Neilson.
Devils take part in just one game this weekend, at home against second-from-bottom Edinburgh Capitals.
So Steelers will use up one of their six games in hand over the Welsh.
But unless you get points in the bag, games in hand have no value.
Sheffield spokesman Dave Simms said: “Normally, no other team is remotely considered when Panthers play Steelers - but it is fair to say both clubs have to keep an eye on Cardiff, because of the lead they have amassed.
“We need to win both games to close the gap, while Nottingham (mid-table) will want to make sure they keep in touch with the front-runners. Neither of us can afford to fall too much behind.”
Sheffield, who are hoping to see Yared Hagos back from concussion on Saturday at the NIC, crushed Panthers 8-1 in their last meeting.
“We don’t read too much into that at this stage” said Simms.
“They had an off-night while we were excellent. It might give us a bit of confidence but they did something similar to us in the Challenge Cup last season.
“They have got some important players back from injury, have done well to progress in the Continental Cup, and will not want to lose again after Wednesday’s trip to Cardiff.”