Sheffield Steelers: Michael Davies tipped to roar back from suspension
Michael Davies will be expected to hit the ground running for Sheffield Steelers on Saturday night.
Coach Aaron Fox wants to see him full of energy as he returns from a six-game suspension following a clash with Manchester Storm’s Mathieu Gagnon.
The American forward was hit by multiple sanctions from EIHL disciplinarians: a one-game ban for slew-footing Gagnon, three games for wiping blood from his face on to Gagnon’s glove and hurling it near the opposition bench plus a further two games were loaded on top to reflect his status as a "repeat offender."
While Davies' behaviour will be expected to improve, his zest for the game should be stronger than ever.
Fox said: "His return will help us a lot, he is a big part of our team. After six games out he will be fresh. Before he was suspended he had been playing good hockey.
"He is competitive in practice - we had given him some time off at the start of the ban as he was coming off neck problems (after the Gagnon incident) and he had the opportunity to rest and get that right.
"Since then, he has worked really hard off and on the ice and has done some extra stuff for his conditioning."
Sheffield need to put an end to a trend which has seen them lose four out of their last five outings.
Fox said: "It is points that matters, but after defeats there are sometimes the silver-lining of a good performance where you can ask yourself; 'How did we lose that?'
"It has happened to us and I'm sure other teams as well. We have outshot teams by unreal margins and lost - we just have to find a way to win and bring those points home."
Fox said it would be an improved Nottingham Panthers that takes to the Arena ice on Saturday.
They have been bolstered by the additions of Jake Hansen and Jullian Talbot, the latter "a solid two way player who I know from Austria" said the Sheffield coach.
Fox has scouted one of their Continental Cup games and studied video of a domestic game with Belfast Giants.
"They are a different team to the side we played a while back, but then we have had to be a different team, with injuries and suspension. Saturday is a huge game, they all are.
"There have been nights this season when we have left points on the table, but this league is very competitive and sometimes you shake your head at results, it is that wide open. We just need to push on."
*Steelers, who were the third seed in the quarter final draw of the Challenge Cup, chose Manchester Storm as their opponents, ahead of Belfast Giants and Cardiff Devils.
Sheffield will host the first leg in the two-game series on Wednesday, December 11, 7.30pm
Dundee Stars v. Glasgow Clan
Guildford Flames v Nottingham Panthers
Sheffield Steelers v Manchester Storm
Cardiff Devils v Belfast Giants