PAUL THOMPSON’S spying mission at Sheffield Steelers may not have left him much as well informed as he would have hoped.
The Coventry Blaze team boss missed his own side’s 4-1 defeat at Hull Stingrays last Sunday to scout Steelers, whom he will face in Play Off quarter final combat next weekend.
His specific purpose was to assess Sheffield’s special teams, as he thinks the qualifying series will be determined by whose power play and penalty kill will be at their best.
“The two games will have plenty of emotion in them so I’m expecting a few penalties” said Thompson. “The special teams that come out on top will have a big say in who goes through to Nottingham”
The Blaze chief won’t, perhaps, have been given an accurate reflection of Steelers’ capabilities from Sunday’s 3-2 home defeat by Belfast Giants.
Steelers failed to score on any of their eight power plays - yet there have been occasions earlier in the season when the PP outfit has looked deadly. The Arena side conceded in one of their three penalty kill attempts.
Thompson has enough problems in his own camp, though. His side finished in fourth place on the back of three consecutive losses.
Benn Olson, his heavyweight enforcer, has a suspected broken hand. And former Steeler Jerramie Domish has been dropped from the line up.
And while their import selection may be reduced, Steelers will hope to cash in on Blaze’s Brit pack too.
Sheffield forwards Ashley Tait, Jonathan Phillips and Jason Hewitt should be too strong for the likes of Russ Cowley and Ross Venus. Phillips has 2+3 from his last four games and Tait has 3+3 from his last five.
Steelers will have Drew Fata back on the blue line. His elbow condition was rested, as a precaution, last Sunday.
The overwhelming feeling in the Steelers’ camp is that they are glad to have put their unsuccessful League programme behind them. They want to win in Coventry on Saturday and finish the job off on Sunday.
The other play off quarter final match-ups are: Nottingham Panthers v Fife Flyers; Belfast v Edinburgh Capitals; Braehead Clan v Cardiff Devils.
Sheffield fans think the most likely scenario is that Clan beat the Devils, meaning Steelers will face Belfast again, in the semi-finals, on April 6.