Clark could be the first Steeler to be chopped

Happier times: Neil Clark celebrates a title - but could now be out
Happier times: Neil Clark celebrates a title - but could now be out
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WHO suffers the relative ignominy of being the first fully-fit Sheffield Steelers’ skater to be sat in the stands, this weekend?

Player coach Ryan Finnerty has the task of dropping one of his 11 imports as the club now carries one more than its allotted Elite League quota.

If Finnerty has made his mind up, he’s not letting on.

When asked to mull over the likely possibilities he said: “Not a chance - you can guess as much as you want, but I’m keeping my thoughts to myself.”

In the past, former coach Alex Dampier also had to decide on who to ‘rest’ out of import defencemen Ron Shudra and Selmar Odelein and forwards Steve Nemeth and Ivan Matulik.

Now that selection quandary has returned to Sheffield Arena.

While Finnerty keeps tight-lipped, it is perhaps interesting that the club has specifically said that new import defenceman Francis Trudel will play tomorrow against Belfast Giants.

And Finnerty did admit he had no plans to take American goalie John DeCaro out of the line-up.

That cuts it down slightly. You wouldn’t want any of your defencemen missing against the league leaders so I would hazard a guess it’s a forward who will make way - and that could mean winger Neil Clark’s neck is on the block.

The Canadian has just one single point, an assist, to show for his last Elite six games.

For a power forward he has been surprisingly low key in the physical stakes, taking just six minutes of penalties, compared to team-mate Colt King’s 92.

As Finnerty makes up his mind, he is keen to stress that whoever gets the axe from the roster should feel no embarrassment, however.

“For players from a north American background it’s nothing new,” he said.

“We are used to seeing two or three guys sitting out in the stands. From the club’s point of view this is a good thing. Guys will know that they will stay on their line if they come in and work hard every night.”

As for possibly dropping himself, the player-coach said: “Me and (his lieutenant) Ashley Tait decide who will sit out, and if it should be me, it will be me. We have to use professional judgement.”

Giants are in the league’s first place, followed by Nottingham Panthers and Steelers in third.

Sheffield are eight points behind Belfast but have no fewer than six games in hand over them and five over Panthers.

Positions across the division have remained unaltered for 13 straight games. Not a single team has changed positions since November 11.