Swedish ice hockey players need time to find their skating feet at Sheffield Steelers
Swedish players can take a couple of months to show their best form and acclimatise to conditions in the Elite League, admits Sheffield Steelers' countryman and assistant coach Jerry Andersson.
The club has had several Swedes on their books over the past couple of seasons and they all had to accommodate a sea-change in fixtures and officiating.
He said it took two months for Andreas Valdix, now one of the club’s most consistent players, to get to grips with the programme.
Andersson discussed the European contribution after The Star asked him his views on the form of centreman Jonas Westerling, who missed three games through injury and hasn’t notched a point in the last four he’s iced in.
“That is a player that had a good period two or three weeks ago, played three or four good games, I am not sure he has learned how it is in this league...how it works, playing back-to-back all the time.
“How the referee works and the physical part of the game” said the coach.
Back to back games are not normal in Sweden, which gives north American imports an advantage.
“If I look back last year, it took two months for Markus Nilsson, Andreas Valdix and Christoffer Bjorklund to learn how it works, the whole thing.”
Andersson said Westerling had showed his “best side” in three or four games on a line with Tim Wallace and the now departed Juha Koivisto. But, for now, the forward has to “skate at a little higher level.”
Steelers have won four out of their last five games, are second in the League and are through to the Cup quarter finals. But what do they need to be title contenders?
“Every player has to be in shape, no injuries, so we can have a couple of good practices, together” said Andersson.
“Since middle August until now always up to five players have some different type of injuries and that means it is not the right quality in every practice.”
Head coach Paul Thompson has said his side is sometimes nervous playing in front of home fans. And Andersson added: “We have some players maybe are a little afraid: ‘What is my job - shall he take my position?”
Andersson said that there were players other than Westerling that were also “a little frustrated” against Braehead Clan last Sunday.
The Swede also said he’d rather Mathieu Roy took more time off now, while he is on the injured list, rather than return too soon and break down.
“I think it is better to take some more days than go on and have the problems the whole season.
“If we can handle one or two weeks without him, I think it is best for him and for the team.
* Steelers goaltender Ervins Mustukovs has been named Elite League Player of the Week after helping his side claim maximum points from their Challenge Cup group games last weekend.