Tomorrow will offer a fascinating insight into whether coach Paul Thompson can unlock the goal potential of his Sheffield Steelers team.
Steelers host JYP Jyväskylä, who shut them out 3-0 last Saturday in Finland, in the Champions Hockey League.
Thompson’s men managed only one goal in the 1-9 deluge at Gothenburg, Sweden in their first group game.
Thompson has said he might tinker with lines in the CHL, using it as a live testing theatre before the EIHL campaign starts. He likes to keep pairs of forwards together, like Levi Nelson and Rob Dowd, who have produced a good chemistry. That could mean that if he experiments with the top line, he’ll keep wingers Colton Fretter and Mathieu Roy together, and try Tyler Moslienko elsewhere, with Fredrik Vestberg, being promoted to the top line as centreman.
Whichever combination, he chooses, the philosophy is clear: be direct and robust near the net. Thompson said: “The objective is to channel pucks to the net and overload there to get the second chance (at scoring)- if you don’t buy a ticket you don’t win the lottery. For the first part of our pre-season we worked hard on the defensive side of our game, now we want to focus on being direct, driving the net and finding the areas where we can score.”
On form Rob Dowd will be one of those expected to challenge defences and goalies. “We want to take Rob to the next level. We want to push him hard. He was quality under Gerad Adams and we want that and for him to be more direct and put pucks away by shooting hard.”
Thompson has reservations about the size of his Sheffield squad - not just compared to European teams, but others in the EIHL.
That is one of reasons he wants to retain the services of Phil Hill.
“I feel we don’t have the depth of some of the other teams we are competing with” he said. “I would like to keep Phil Hill around but it is a financial decision.
“They must have 13 forwards at Breahead, and Nottingham and Belfast have deep benches, Coventry too...”