Injuries mean Sheffield Steelers will probably keep import level as it is - plus more forthright views from owner Tony Smith in THAT inteview

The only upside to an injury to Sébastien Piché will be that it gives coach Aaron Fox some breathing room as he tries to come up with a winning formula.
Sebastien Piche, picture by Dean WoolleySebastien Piche, picture by Dean Woolley
Sebastien Piche, picture by Dean Woolley

The defenceman missed out on the twin defeats at Belfast Giants last weekend and the prior midweek Cup reverse at Fife Flyers.

He was placed on the EIHL's Injury Reserve list, probably around January 23, which means fans won't see him until the week starting February 20 as he is automatically unavailable for 28 days.

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During that time the 34-year-old Canadian's salary will be deducted from the EIHL wage cap so Fox won't have to make any uncomfortable decisions for a while in terms of offloading an import.

There will be no ins-or-outs in that time, owner Tony Smith told The Star.

Mason Mitchell is also suffering from a lower body knock that kept him out of the Northern Ireland matches.

If the injuries keep coming, then the club will most likely keep its full complement of players.

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Fox needs everybody firing on all cylinders and competing for the best spots this weekend as Steelers travel to Nottingham Panthers on Saturday and then host Coventry Blaze 24 hours later.

Anything less than four points against the sixth and fifth-placed opponents will be hard to stomach for fans after watching their side lose five out of their last six games.

In those five losses, Steelers have not found the net as often as they would have liked.

Yet, earlier this season, Sheffield had proved themselves to be a potent offensive side.

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And they are still on a par with Belfast in the 'goals for' statistic - 142 strikes in 36 games. Nobody concedes fewer, either.

Nottingham will be the first opposing club to pop up in Steelers' remaining 18 fixtures to face a (hopefully) rejuvenated offensive performance from Sheffield.

Panthers' coach Corey Neilson is having problems of his own in getting his team to find the net.

He said they had "90 per cent possession" against Glasgow Clan last Sunday and still lost 2-1.

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"Scoring is a knack, you either have it or you don't," he said of his team, which has scored 42 fewer goals than Steelers, having played the same number of games.

He said he was "incredibly frustrated"- and will want to work that off against their closest rivals.

Steelers' owner Tony Smith made his own exasperations known in an interview with The Star on Tuesday.

His remarks triggered hot debate amongst fans online.

In one part of the conversation, and referring to recent form and the losses at Belfast, he said: "There are times I feel like going into the dressing room and telling them what I think, but I don't do that, it's not my job to do that.

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"We have got to get that message across, not pussyfooting around or walking on hot coals. "Friday night (3-5 defeat) was simply not good enough for us, the fans, and everybody off the ice.

"Look at yourself in the mirror when you come off the ice, don't start smashing sticks and getting upset with everybody because you couldn't do what the other team did over 60 minutes."